The Mikado, Darlington Civic Theatre

THREE foot-tapping winners from the National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company this week: HMS Pinafore, The Gondoliers and last night’s offering, The Mikado.

The National Festival Orchestra has the audience bouncing along to the overture, conducted with youthful enthusiasm and energy by James Hendry, currently assistant musical director, but undoubtedly destined for even greater heights in the future.

This company is so polished, so well-versed in the eccentricities of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, with excellent singing voices coupled with clear diction (the libretto is very funny) and comedic skill. Richard Gauntlett, in particular, in the role of Lord High Executioner, has the audience in the palm of his hand with his characterisation and his comic little dances and facial expressions.

As always, G & S took the opportunity to lampoon British politics thinly disguised in Japanese costume; Pooh-Bah (The Lord High Everything Else) is Chancellor, Treasurer, Lord Chief Justice and so on, to represent the interchangeable government ministers of the day. No change there then.

The story is as far-fetched as ever, involving young lovers who dare not marry because the man is to be executed in a month, whereupon his widow will be buried alive. In spite of this, one of the funniest songs is sung in quartet celebrating the forthcoming marriage. The libretto has been skilfully updated to include references to Botox and PPI, seamlessly stitched into the original, and the result is a tuneful, jolly, laugh-out-loud evening’s entertainment.

* Runs until Saturday. Box Office: 01325-486555 or

Sue Heath