The Mikado: A very modern comedy

People people-watching in bustling New Regent Street, folks out and about in their finery, and a sea of black and white as those carrying black instrument cases make their way towards an unassuming looking back entrance off Gloucester Street – New Zealand Opera is back at the Isaac Theatre Royal, and this time it’s for their 2017 production – Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.

Set in Japan, and first performed over 120 years ago in a theatre in London, it might be difficult to see how this comic opera could appeal to the sense of humour of people here in 2017 Christchurch. Sitting in the audience last night, and hearing all the laughter around me throughout the show, I can tell you that this production has updated itself fantastically. Harajuku girls, the use of cellphones as a plot device, and references to Donald Trump and theatre etiquette mean you’ll forget that this opera has been around for long enough to become a theatre classic, and will enjoy it even if you aren’t a regular opera-goer.

Jonathan Abernethy as Nanki-Poo bribes Poo-Bah as played by Andrew Collis.
Jonathan Abernethy as Nanki-Poo bribes Poo-Bah as played by Andrew Collis. Image credit: David Rowland

The Mikado‘s story follows Nanki-Poo, the son of the Japanese Mikado (or Emperor), in his journey to Titipu in search of his sweetheart, Yum-Yum. Unfortunately for him, Yum-Yum is now engaged to her guardian Ko-Ko, and the woman Nanki-Poo was intended to marry is not overly happy at being left behind so unceremoniously. … Also, Ko-Ko isn’t that keen to have a rival love interest, either. What follows is an hilarious story of love, loyalty and power, and a reminder that sometimes even the best-laid plans don’t work out quite the way you’d expect.

This show was a delight to watch, and by the end of it my cheeks hurt from all the grinning and laughing. While I thought that all the cast members did a great job portraying their characters, I particularly enjoyed Brendan Coll’s version of the character Ko-Ko. With his wide range of facial expressions and various voices, I don’t think I have ever spent so much time laughing at someone with the job title ‘Lord High Executioner’!

Helen Medlyn as Katisha and Byron Coll as Ko-Ko.
Helen Medlyn as Katisha and Byron Coll as Ko-Ko. Image credit: David Rowland

I also thoroughly enjoyed watching Andrew Collis as Pooh-Bah – he’s the epitome of pomposity in this show, but he’s spoken to Moata and it looks like in reality he’s a really nice guy.

Along with the cast, members of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the creative team involved with The Mikado have created a production that has a combination of visual, verbal and physical comedy, and is accompanied by an instrumental arrangement that adds to the overall enjoyment of the show. I highly recommend going to see it – the Isaac Theatre Royal is a beautiful venue, and this is an opera that will appeal to more people than just the usual opera crowd. With sensuous left shoulder blades, aunties with moustaches, and wandering 21st century minstrels peddling their CDs on Marine Parade, why not make The Mikado your introduction (or re-introduction) to Gilbert and Sullivan?

You only have until Saturday March 11th to head along and see this great show, so grab your tickets and get ready for a fun night out.

Cover of The Mikado sound recordingTo prepare for the show, or to relive the experience afterwards, jump into our collection and check out what Mikado-related material we have in a range of formats.

What languages do you speak?

There are approximately 6900 languages in the world today. That’s right – six thousand, nine hundred! That’s A LOT of different languages! How many of them can you speak?

World Languages magazines

CoverWe all learn a language when we are born. That’s our ‘mother language’ – we pick it up from our family and friends, and learn it without too much effort. Some New Zealanders speak English as their mother language, some speak te reo Māori or New Zealand Sign Language, and others speak one of those thousands of other languages. To quote that well-known song, Aotearoa New Zealand really is a great big melting pot of cultures!

UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day (21 February 2017) is a chance to celebrate the different languages we all speak, and to encourage people to read, learn, and share ideas in their native language.

CoverHere at Christchurch City Libraries we have heaps of resources you can read in your mother language – books, newspapers, magazines, online resources, you choose! Our World Languages collections have books and magazines in languages from Afrikaans to Vietnamese.

PressReader lets you read newspapers and magazines from Albania to Zimbabwe, and our selection of language eResources can help you study, relax, or learn English or another language.

Check these resources out, and maybe by next year you’ll be able to say you speak one more language than you do now!

Pippi Longstocking – 70 years young, and still going strong

I remember reading Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking as a child, and thinking what a wonderful, exciting life this nine-year-old girl had. With no adults to tell her what to do, a pet monkey and horse who lived in her house, and two good friends who lived right next door with whom she could have adventures every day, this girl – to my young brain, at least – was living the dream.

CoverNow, I know that reading books as a child is different from reading books as an adult – I’m sure lots of us have had fond memories of a childhood favourite, re-read it as an adult, and been bitterly disappointed by the experience. However, I have just read the Lauren Child-illustrated version of Pippi Longstocking, and I am very pleased to announce that this was not the case. It is still just as magical a read as ever, whether you are re-reading it as an adult, sharing it with your own child or grandchild at bedtime, or discovering it for the first time as a nine-year-old.

There are eleven chapters in this book, each of which is a story in itself. With titles such as ‘Pippi is a thing-searcher and ends up in a fight’, ‘Pippi plays tag with the police’, and ‘Pippi dances with burglars’, you know right from the start that there will be plenty of action, trouble-making, and laughter, and you are not disappointed. With very little regard for social expectations, Pippi says what she thinks, does what she wants, and goes where she pleases, causing confusion for the adults around her, and delighting the neighbourhood children … and the reader. She does not feel bound to do things the conventional way, and I enjoyed reading about her unique attempts at baking, her creative attitude to schoolwork, and the tales she tells of her adventures with her father. These are not necessarily true tales, but since ‘[her] mamma is an angel and [her] pappa is king of the natives … how can you expect her always to tell the truth?’

Although Lindgren first wrote about Pippi seventy years ago, the story has not dated, and Tiina Nunally’s translation and Child’s illustrations ensure that it is just as much fun for children in 2017 as it was in 1945, when it was first published. A friend’s six-year-old daughter was reading this book at the same time as I was, and the fact she was so excited to share with me her favourite parts of the story speaks volumes about how this story has endured over the years.

Lauren Child’s illustrations are absolutely fantastic, and really help to bring Pippi to life. Through her customary collage style of art, Child captures Pippi’s cheeky nature, and you cannot help but smile at the colourful interpretations of the events taking place. This particular edition of this book is just begging to be shared with young readers, and will ensure that Pippi’s adventures are enjoyed by children (and their adults) for years to come.

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