Thursday, July 12, 2012

Barrack-Jones – The Mikado Proper

Barrack-Jones back on the job after what’s been a truly topsy-turvy week on the Brisbane theatre scene.

By the end of it I do believe it was only the foyer bar holding me up, and that wouldn’t be the first time let me tell you.

I think it’s time to polish off Opera Queensland’s The Mikado, which looks set to do business that would have made dear old Richard D’Oyly Carte   proud.

I reckon that young Gilfedder Eugene – would have made a terrific Victorian patter man and challenger to Fred SullivanSully’s brother – who was one of the top comic performers of his age.

Poor old Fred died at the age of 40 leaving behind a wife and eight kids, but Sully did the right thing and looked after them all.

I digress.

Although young Gilfedder as Ko-Ko added a few contemporary references to his Little List song and there were plenty of other modern asides – such as the Wandering Minstrel Nanki-Poo  - Dominic Walsh – flogging CDs of his work it doesn’t matter.

The Mikado was never really grounded in the era in which it was created – it premiered in the winter of ’85 – and little to do with the real Japan.

Although Victorian Londoners were fascinated with the country – which was just reveling itself to the world – Sully used all that exotic stuff as a vehicle to send-up the Pommy establishment.

There were all sorts of stories about how  Gilly got the idea for the Mikado, including being inspired by a Japanese sword in his study and some oriental community in Knightsbridge, but really it was all about keeping Sully on side.

As I said earlier, both men were getting to the end of the tether and Sully had already knocked back one suggested scenario because it had too much magic in it.

The Mikado is really a nonsense story about a Lord high executioner who has no one to execute, a love sick boy called Nanki- Poo and three little maids who are dangerously close to being what the Yanks call jail bait.

The virtue of young girls was a cause for some concern at the time as the age of constant had been raised from 13 to 16 in the autumn of ‘85 in a bid to stop the terrible traffic in child prostitution.

Look, I love a pretty young ankle – don’t get me wrong – but I do have one or two morals and a line in the sand which I keep a sharp eye on.

Anyway, this modern director fellow Stuart Maunder (AM would you believe. Is that when he gets out of bed I wonder? ) has obviously had a lot of fun with it.

The production is fast furious and a hoot to boot.

It wasn’t Gilly & Sully’s last opera or even their last successful one – that was The Grand Duke and The Gondoliers respectively – but the relationship was as strained as a constipated elephant.

I said I’d tell about the dreadful carpet row which all took place some years later didn’t I?

Well, as you probably know,  all the Gilly & Sully operas were known as The Savoy Operas because that was the boys’ own theatre, where they were premiered.

 Their producer D’Oyly Carte reckoned new carpets were needed and Sully was on his side because  Carte had promised to stage his serious opera, Ivanhoe, but Gilly thought it a waste of money.

There were other financial rows and one thing led to another as a simple disagreement became a serious of blazing rows worthy of the great fire of London.

Anyway, it wasn’t long after that The Grand Duke flopped and the boys decided to give it away.

They’d created 14 operettas.

The last interesting anecdote from the Gilly & Sully story is the way poor old Gilly – who created all those fabulous topsy-turvy stories - died.

It was in the spring of ’11 when 74-year-old Gilly was giving swimming lessons to two charming young local lasses.

One of them, 17-year- old Ruby Preece got into a spot of trouble and so the gallant scribe dived in to save her and promptly died of a heart attack.

Such is death.

The macabre, but amusing, twist is that when Ruby grew-up she went into bat for the other side if you get my drift.

I said Barrack-Jones had a line in the sand but nothing about being PC.

Ha, ha, ha.

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