Sasha Regan is returning to the Lowry this week with her new innovative and creative all-male version of Mikado, following the huge success of her previous all-male productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan classics, she is now taking this approach to the most popular opera ever written.
The company are creating quite a name for themselves, and with audiences growing every year, people eagerly anticipate their annual Gilbert and Sullivan production as it returns to the stage.
“It all started a few years ago when I wanted to stage a Gilbert and Sullivan production but from a fresh new angle,” Sasha told me. “The cast play the roles as women. Essentially, the actor will make all of the decisions for the character based on the script and score. With this in mind, the women portrayed within each Gilbert and Sullivan should have well thought out characters and not be simply men dragged up.”
It’s a classic production that has been performed a multitude of times, but despite it being a classic, when Sasha goes into rehearsals she looks at the piece as if it is new. She explained: “The male cast are encouraged to be truthful and innocent, so we actually have a very sincere piece of work by the end of the rehearsal process. The fact that they are playing women ensures a very funny staging without milking the sometimes out of date humour.”
The Mikado, also known as The Town of Tiptu first opened in London in 1885 and became one of the longest runs of a theatre production in that time. It’s essentially a rollercoaster love story that involves many twists and turns, not to mention it’s excellently funny. This is where Sasha’s brilliance in men playing women works so superbly, as it brings a different perspective and humour to the roles.
Aside from the all-male aspect of the piece, the company are also attempting a dementia-friendly performance. “We were approached by The Lowry to stage the first ever Dementia friendly show at their theatre and we are deeply honoured to be doing it,” Sasha explained. “Music is a deeply therapeutic medium and many people who may suffer from short-term memory loss can be transported to a happy and familiar place with a score. Gilbert and Sullivan is the perfect show to try this dementia friendly performance with as I am sure that many of our audience members will know every word.”
The adaptation of the production in order to make it dementia friendly include editing the show down to a shorter length, and enhancing the staging to make it vibrant and paced faster. Sasha expanded: “For example, when a song has five verses we have cut it back to three. We will also keep the house lights raised slightly and the cast are all prepped for an interactive and lively crowd.”
Although it’s a timeless production, it still seems to be popping up everywhere on the theatre scene attracting new audiences. “My daughter is eight and she watches my shows unaware of their age or heritage,” Sasha said. “By working with choreographers to create lively stagings and designers that transform the G & S worlds we have visually exciting shows. We are certainly building a new audience for this wonderful genre. Long Live Gilbert & Sullivan!”