Words by W. S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1956
Cast List
The Mikado of Japan

Notes on this performance

29. The Mikado

 A return to Titipu…

After the comparatively disappointing profit made in the last production, it comes as no surprise that the Committee turned to The Mikado to help redress the balance, as the show practically guarantees large audiences. Although Alfred Tomalin and D Cecil Williams were again engaged as the directing team, both gave out ominous messages about the future – the director suggested that ‘it would be prudent to try to find another producer to take over in due course,’ whilst the MD stated that he would like ‘the help of a deputy to relieve him of some of the rehearsals’.

The Mikado means fans and, in this case, the costumier would not be supplying them so they would have to be purchased and the cast would then be expected to buy them from the Society for use in rehearsals. Refreshments during the intervals of show week were still a bone of contention but it was now agreed that members should pay for their own. They would also be required to pay 2/6 (25p) to attend the reception after the Saturday night performance - stage crew would be guests of the society.

The Inland Revenue claim had not been resolved and had been put in the hands of a firm of accountants but the problem hung over the group like a cloud.  Meanwhile, the records showed that the Chairman only attended two committee meetings during the year. Ironically, D Cecil Williams, who suggested this openness, managed just one.

 The company again featured a large chorus (28 school girls, 20 noblemen and 6 guards and coolies) and boasted another strong line up of principals. The Echo review again singled out Tom Judd for special praise and gave some insights into his stage craft; ‘Tom Judd plays Ko-Ko, he sounds like Max Wall and acts with good humour. His diction is excellent and few of his fellow performers can match it.’ He warmed to the theme of enunciation with, ‘Bert Clague, as The Mikado, is very nearly equal and so is John Hoskins, as Nanki-Poo, whose song with Yum-Yum (Winifred Barrett) is one of the best presented… The chorus work is consistently excellent.’

The programme notes carried a piece outlining the background of the opera and one can only marvel at the assumed musical knowledge of those who read it, ‘The men’s trio in Act 1 is set in three part vocal counterpoint, each singer competing with his fellows in sham altruism; by way of contrast, Sullivan reverts to simple reiterated chords in the refrain to throw into prominence Gilbert’s alliterations.’ Yet, a few years before the audience was reminded to be quiet during the playing of the overture! It is also unlikely that the programme for SOS’s next Mikado will go into such detail. 

As anticipated, ticket sales for The Mikado were much better than the previous show and the production made a pleasing profit of £290 6s 7d (£290.33) – hiring cheaper costumes also helped in this respect. A donation of £150 was shared between the Cancer Campaign, the Inskip League of Friendship, the Actors’ Church Union, St Mary’s Rebuilding Fund, Shirley Cats and Dogs Home and Cecil William’s Appeal for St Mary’s Organ Fund.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Ko-Ko

Tom Judd (Ko-Ko) with Marjorie Kennedy (Katisha)