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

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
music
Arts and Entertainment
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs at Suncorp Stadium on February 24, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans had initially distanced himself from the possibility of taking the job

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
British author Matt Haig

books
Arts and Entertainment
Homeland star Damian Lewis is to play a British Secret Service agent in Susanna White's film adaptation of John le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor

Film
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.

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue