The Mikado

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

five stars

RATHER than representing the less demanding and fluffier side of the available repertoire, it might be argued that the example of Jonathan Miller's regularly-revived production at English National Opera suggests that it is a wise policy for every opera company to have a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's best-known show to hand. This follow-up to Scottish Opera and D'Oyly Carte's Pirates of Penzance, again directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans, tours across Scotland and then to Belfast, Newcastle, Bristol and Southampton until the end of June and it is absolutely certain to prove itself a wise investment. Brilliantly cast, it is also staged with a vibrancy and style that makes it bowl along delightfully – and of course it has more well-known tunes than any other G&S show.

This is a very Victorian vision of Japan, living in the world of the music hall, where we first see Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, as an inept illusionist during the overture. There is more than a touch of Frankie Howerd in Richard Suart's portrayal, and his "little list" song was specifically tailored to polling day and was merciless in its skewering of Scottish politicians. Rebecca Bottone's accent for his ward Yum-Yum is straight from the stables at Sandringham, but the three pretty maids (with Sioned Gwen Davies and Emma Kerr) moved like girls who have watched a lot of videos on YouTube. Nicholas Sharratt's Nanki-Poo has a Buttons-like charm and the Gothic Katisha who pursues him arrives by boat in front of Katsushika Hokusai's Great Wave off Kanagawa.

If there is not a trick missed with the set and costumes as well as in the characterisation, the principals and chorus are also moved with great skill. Steve Elias's choreography is often laugh-out-loud funny, and delights in moments of Busby Berkeley pastiche. That sits nicely with a musical approach that is always conscious of the parody of grand opera in the ensemble pieces. The gags succeed one another as swiftly as the tunes with nothing ever over-staying its welcome, and perhaps the biggest surprise is just how of-the-moment the class-based humour still seems.