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
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas