The Mikado, Coliseum, London

A Mikado that would be missed

About a third of the way into Jonathan Miller's now classic refit of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, receives the Mikado's letter. After scrutinising it at length, every which way, he finally exclaims: "I can't read this. It's in Japanese!" And as if we hadn't known all along, Miller nails the whole G&S ethos. The Mikado isn't about the Japanese any more than The Gondoliers is about Venetian boatmen. Guess what, it's about the English. It's about the English engaged in their favourite pastime - laughing at themselves. And the biggest laughs of all are reserved for the Establishment. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

For anyone who hasn't yet seen this show, take sunglasses. When the curtain rises on Stefanos Lazaridis's terrific set - a posh spa hotel in the 1930s - the brilliant white of it still dazzles. It's as topsy-turvy as the humour. Pert chamber maids and perter bellboys materialise and vanish on cue, twinkle-toeing across the threshold, in and out of tap-shoes. It isn't camp at all, really. When Nanki-Poo's "wandering minstrel" invokes "a song of the sea" in deference to the common sailor "with his Nancy on his knee" - all the chorus boys to a man (if that's not stretching a point) turn mid-hornpipe and glower.

There's an outrageously protracted entrance for Ko-Ko, all fanfares, teeth and smiles and strewn rose-petals. Except that he doesn't - enter, that is. From the top, one more time, Miller and his choreographer Anthony van Last repeat the entire sequence, the girls endeavouring to gather up as many of the strewn petals as possible, the boys rolling their eyes as if to say, "If we must, love, but get it right this time". It's the showbiz conceit that Miller catches so well. He reminds us that musical comedy really began here, that the American musical theatre would be nowhere without G&S. Everyone, from the Gershwins to Leonard Bernstein, revered them. Miller shows us why.

Like any show - particularly one in its 10th revival - this one needs to run in a little. It's spry, but will doubtless sharpen after a few more performances. Timing is everything. And topicality, of course. Ko-Ko's "little list" of prospective victims, all of whom will "not be missed", is duly updated as befits tradition. Richard Suart writes his own "little list" lyrics, and the usual suspects are all present and correct, Mr Bush's "poodle" yet again topping the bill. WMD will not be found, even in Titipu. "Sidcup water", bottled by Coca-Cola, gets a mention, as do the "dominatrix" Anne Robinson, Raymond Gubbay, and "Cameron" (that's Mackintosh to you and me) for his cut-down Les Mis band. I hope they all realise what a privilege it is to be included.

Suart turns in one of his best performances as Ko-Ko. G&S is his stock-in-trade, we know, but the energy and comic precision of what he does comes so naturally that you are simply not aware of its skill. He's a sharp mime and a sharp mimic (everything from Gordon Brown to Olivier's Richard III), and he visibly diminishes in size when confronted with Frances McCafferty's indomitable Katisha whose arrival with her "pilot, accompanist, and unrequited lover" in tow could be the answer as to the whereabouts of the missing WMD. McCafferty is splendid, not just for the formidable thrust of her chest notes but for the tender solemnity with which she sings her two Edwardian "ballads".

We all need to be reminded what an exquisite touch Sullivan had. Bonaventura Bottone does so as the kiss-curled Nanki-Poo, and Jeni Bern (a frightfully "far-back" Yum-Yum) is sound, if not glorious, in the big number "The Sun Whose Rays". Her sisters, Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo (Victoria Simmonds and Fiona Canfield) are somewhat under-projected. Not so Ian Caddy's Pooh-Bah - "Lord High Everything Else" - who is whatever you want him to be. For a price. Sound familiar?

To 6 May (020-7632 8300)

Arts and Entertainment
Tate Modern chief Chris Dercon, who will be leaving to run a Berlin theatre company
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Tasos: 'I rarely refuse an offer to be photographed'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Girls on the verge of a nervous breakdown: Florence Pugh and Maisie Williams star in 'The Falling'
Film
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

    Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
    General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

    All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

    The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
    How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

    How Etsy became a crafty little earner

    The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
    Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

    King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

    Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

    The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
    Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

    Don't fear the artichoke

    Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
    11 best men's socks

    11 best men's socks

    Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
    Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

    Paul Scholes column

    Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
    Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
    London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

    Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

    Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

    Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
    Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

    Khorasan is back in Syria

    America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
    General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

    On the campaign trail with Ukip

    Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
    Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

    Expect a rush on men's tights

    Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
    Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

    In the driving seat: Peter Kay

    Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road