Scene from Jonathan Miller's production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado
Black and white photograph
Museum no. TM10271-1/9
Ever willing to fly in the face of tradition, in 1986, English National Opera commissioned the iconoclastic director Jonathan Miller for a new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. Miller’s instructions to his choreographer Anthony van Laast, summed up his approach. ‘Go and see all the Marx Brothers films and don’t ask me any logical questions.’ Any satire on Japan was abandoned, and the show became a 1920s musical comedy, set in a dazzling white hotel with everyone dressed in black and white, and Yum-Yum and her friends in St Trinian’s uniforms. As Ko-Ko, Miller cast ex-Python, non-singer Eric Idle. Letters of complaint began reaching the company even before the production opened. However, all the complaints in the world could not mask the fact that ENO had a huge hit on its hands and the production was revived many times over almost two decades. This photograph shows Janis Kelly, Neryn Jones and Fiona Canfield in the 1997 revival.