DOES the world need a play about Arthur Sullivan? I don't think so.

His story, certainly as told by Christopher Webber, follows a celebrated but unremarkable path. His career in conjunc-

tion with WS Gilbert went

from success to success, with a sad, but not catastrophic, tailing off at the end. His love life was little more racy than average. He suffered no more than the usual personal losses. And despite his gambling, he didn't end up destitute.

The only theme of vague interest that the playwright

can drag up is Sullivan's fear that he was squandering a

highbrow musical talent on the middlebrow joviality of his lyricist. It's an idea that nags throughout the play, but never comes to much.

But just because the world doesn't need a play about Arthur Sullivan, that's not to

say fans of operetta don't deserve one. It's a niche

market that Mull Theatre has cornered for this touring production, and one - judging by audience reaction - it seems to understand well.

If any play were going to be arch and self conscious, I

suppose one about Victorian popular entertainers should be allowed to get away with it.

One of the punch lines is ''Bognor Regis''. Another is ''Basingstoke''. It does nothing for me, but it's a long time

since I saw The Mikado.

Featuring a soundtrack of Sullivan's original music, Alasdair McCrone's production is boisterous and exuberant. McCrone himself plays Sulli-van with hang-dog charm, opposite Tim Thomas as a

more spikey Gilbert. The supporting cast act like they're

in a theatre twice the size.

Fine, if you like that kind

of thing.