Review: The Mikado

King's Head Theatre
5 star rating
Meticulous and stylish direction from John Savournin ensures that this entertaining rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera offers bags of wry humour and outstanding singing.
The Mikado

Matthew Palmer (Pish-Tush), Matthew Kellett (Pooh-Bah), Philip Lee (Ko-Ko) - photo: Bill Knight

Show details

Show information

Closed here Saturday 21 April 2018

Cast and creatives


Matthew Palmer (The Mikado/Pish-Tush)

Jack Roberts (Nanki-Poo)

Philip Lee (Ko-Ko, except 6 - 8 April)

Stephen Godward (Pooh-Bah, 31 March, 1 - 7 April /13 April /15 - 21 April)

Matthew Kellett (Pooh-Bah ( 22 - 30 March/8 - 12 April, 14 April)

Alys Roberts (Yum-Yum)

Jessica Temple (Pitti-Sing)

Corinne Cowling (Peep-Bo)

Matthew Siveter (Katisha)

John Savournin (Ko-Ko, three performances only, 6 - 8 April)


John Savournin
Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert
Arthur Sullivan
W. S. Gilbert
Musical direction
David Eaton
Rachel Szmukler
Nicholas Holdridge
Damian Czarnecki


Behind the closed doors at the British Consulate in the town of Tipitu, Japan, the scheming, slippery Lord High Executioner is about to hatch one plot too far, with far-reaching and hilarious consequences for everyone involved, especially when the Mikado himself arrives ...

Containing familiar songs including "A wandering minstrel, I", "I've got a little list" and "Three little maids from school", this punchy and hilarious satire promises to be a treat for operetta lovers and newcomers alike.


The 'Masters of Gilbert and Sullivan in small spaces' Charles Court Opera return to the King's Head Theatre with a smart, stylish new take on possibly the most loved of their comic masterpieces, The Mikado, giving it a classy CCO twist.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Tuesday 27 March 2018
Review star rating image

The setting for this version of The Mikado is the British Consulate in Titipu, Japan.

It's like one of London's gentlemen's clubs, sporting a rather swanky fitted carpet, a leather chesterfield and a highly decorated and beautiful screen, bearing a grand crest.

The location seems a little odd, even if Rachel Szmukler's fetchingly elegant design provides a fittingly bureaucratic tone for this comic opera.

First performed in 1885, you'd think, perhaps, that The Mikado probably passed its sell-by date some years or even decades ago.

But both the original concept and this brilliantly-effected production by Charles Court Opera, prove that notion entirely wrong, though your appreciation of the work will obviously depend on your musical tastes.

However, Arthur Sullivan's endearing and delightful tunes are easy to appreciate even for those not normally drawn to opera, and exemplary singing from a well-cast ensemble here make it all the more accessible as well as hugely enjoyable.

In terms of comedy, there's still much to admire and still a ring of freshness about the humour underlying the bizarre plot, which makes it surprisingly relevant.

Additionally, some nifty tinkering with the libretto modernises the satirical nature of the humour with references to modern concerns including the efficacy of British train companies, the EU and Vladimir Putin among many others.

A sometimes frantic Philip Lee is Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of Titipu.

The Mikado at the King's Head Theatre

Alys Roberts (Yum-Yum), Jessica Temple (Pitti-Sing), Corinne Cowling (Peep-Bo) - photo: Bill Knight

He wants to wed his ward, Yum-Yum, but a wandering minstrel called Nanki-Poo fetches-up looking to marry her too.

Ko-Ko doesn't carry out many executions - in fact none.

But when he gets an ultimatum from The Mikado he has to find a victim otherwise his own neck might be on the block.

His thoughts turn to Nanki-Poo who is offered the chance to wed Yum-Yum as long as he agrees to be executed in a month's time, which to most of us doesn't sound like a good deal.

The Mikado at the King's Head Theatre

Matthew Siveter (Katisha) - photo: Bill Knight

Events become more complicated when we discover that Nanki-Poo is actually the son of The Mikado and his hand has already been promised to the "plain" Katisha, who readily admits to being "an acquired taste".

And to underline that plainness and her dour and sulkily domineering persona, the part is wonderfully played by a man - Matthew Siveter.

There's no space at the King's Head Theatre for a substantial chorus or grand, ritualised entrances, but that doesn't limit the creativity of this operatic venture, and there's never a feeling that the show is in any way cramped.

Moreover, the proximity of the cast means that we hear every word of both the dialogue and the songs, and Damian Czarnecki's choreography deftly utilises every inch of space, including the furniture, to keep the action flowing, sometimes to feverish effect.

Stylish direction from John Savournin means there's never really a dull moment in this meticulously-created production which delivers a modernised rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan's opera, offering bags of wry humour and outstanding singing.

ActDrop listing for King's Head Theatre
Our show listing for The Mikado
Read our reviews' policy

ActDrop recommends ...

Buy tickets for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre