Opera review: The Mikado, Usher Hall

The Mikado, Usher Hall ***

There is plenty to praise in the semi-staged production of The Mikado which toured to the Usher Hall last night, thanks to revealing direction from Alistair McGowan and stand-out solo performances.

The chorus of Edinburgh Grand Opera were in fine voice, serving the swooping tunes of Sullivan's music well. Sadly, their diction had little to offer the acerbic wit of Gilbert's lyrics.

McGowan shows impressive style in his move from the comedy of the TV impressionist to 125-year-old light opera. He performed the title role impeccably, bringing a lightness of touch in To let the Punishment fit the Crime, with plenty of audience- pleasing references in the patter of the reworked lyrics.

It's as director that McGowan makes his mark. The plot might be hilarious but it is as convoluted as they come, with Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of Titipu, getting the job by virtue of being under sentence of death. It's just the start of its twisted logic.

Yet there is no uncertainty to the story's progression as the cast put their all into their roles. By creating credible characters rather than labouring the jokes they double the humour: McGowan clearly understands that Gilbert's scornful mockery of parliamentary and legal processes is still relevant today.

Oliver White is an earnest Nanki-Poo, the minstrel who wanders back to Titipu on hearing that his love Yum-Yum's guardian, Ko-Ko, to whom she is betrothed, has been sentenced to death. Charlotte Page's Yum-Yum is suitably horsey for one whose love is revealed to be the Mikado's son in disguise.

But it is Richard Suart as the elderly Ko-Ko and Bruce Graham as the unctuous Pooh-Bah, Titipu's multi-tasking Chancellor, Bishop and Prime Minister, who stand out. Ko-Ko's "Little List" of those who will not be missed is so up to date to include a "left-wing perjure-ist".

Sad, then, to witness Jill Pert's Katisha, the forceful elderly courtier who has designs on Nanki-Poo. She looks the part, but fails to make her words intelligible. A capital offence when all else are so delightfully clear.

Run ended