“No ball games” warns the handwritten sign, coyly draped from one of the on-stage tents. And in an all-male recasting of Gilbert and Sullivan’s already arch oriental comedy, you might see that as the trigger for some high-camp, Julian Clary-style smut coming your way.
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh ****
Not a bit of it. Director Sasha Regan’s glorious G&S rethink is all sweetness and innocence – well, mostly. Instead of nods and winks, she delivers a warm-hearted, thoroughly sincere production set amongst some seemingly well-meaning, good-as-gold Scouts out in the woods. Indeed, the only thing camp about it are the tents and the flickering fire. You might even end up wondering why it’s an all-male production in the first place.
Even better, though, Regan pulls a neat trick in relocating G&S’s satire on the English establishment, clothed as a preposterous oriental fantasy, back in the very establishment it’s satirising. She has some fine, wonderfully energetic performances too – Holly Hughes’s Cecil B DeMille-style choreography might feel a little hyperactive, but it’s always entertaining, and more importantly, it always has a narrative point. Richard Munday has a strong if slightly nasal tenor as wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo, and Ross Finnie is suitably stentorian as the multi-professioned Pooh-Bah. But it’s the “ladies” who really steal the show, with Alex Weatherhill growling away as a wronged Katisha, and Alan Richardson soaring aloft in an impeccable falsetto as love interest Yum-Yum. It’s all frothy nonsense, of course – but carried off with such conviction that you can’t help be captivated. A delight.