Melrose Mikado magic

Melrose Operatic Society perform 'The Mikado' in 1995
Melrose Operatic Society perform 'The Mikado' in 1995

It is a decade since Melrose Amateur Operatic Society last performed the Gilbert & Sullivan comic classic, The Mikado, and this may be their last show.

The society’s struggle for survival has been well publicised. A lack of new, young members, coupled to an ageing group of regular performers and audiences has cast doubts upon the company’s future, which will be determined at its annual general meeting in June.

However, before then, the society will perform The Mikado for the ninth time as a fitting 80th anniversary celebration, running from Monday, March 23, to Saturday, March 28, inclusive, at the town’s Corn Exchange. Involved in his fourth production of The Mikado as either producer or in a signing capacity, is Melrose Opera veteran of 37 years, Colin Smith.

Colin has been steadily working on this year’s production since last summer, with music rehearsals starting in October.

And while The Mikado is a favourite with Gilbert & Sullivan audiences, Colin admits you still have to try and put your own stamp on a production.

He told us: “This is my second stint as producer of The Mikado and it is probably the most popular of all the works by Gilbert & Sullivan. People love it and expect certain things when they come to see it.

“But when you’re producing, you can’t just do the same thing again and again, so you put your own twists on certain elements – that’s why I like to think of this as a fusion production.”

The Melrose production is still set in Japan, but as Colin explains, it’s not really a show about Japan itself.

“Setting the story in Japan allowed Gilbert to satirise British institutions. It’s really about Britain. And, until 1982, performances had to rigidly stick exactly to the format of the original D’Oyly Carte company performances. It made it a bit difficult.

“However, there’s a few twists in our production, which I don’t want to give away”

As for the future of the society, Colin says the difficulties it finds itself in is as much a sign of the times as anything else and he urged people to support this year’s show.

He said: “Last year’s production of Patience is a good example of the problem – there is meant to be a male chorus of young cavalry officers, but due to the age of society members, we had to change that to a chorus of retired cavalry officers.

“But nothing about the society’s future will be decided until the meeting in June. However, people need to come along to The Mikado and see what could be lost – it would be a great shame if it all ended”

z Tickets are available from from Holmes of Melrose, Cookware & Tableware, High Street, Melrose, or by visiting the society website