20 April 2011

topsy turvy


excerpted from a questionnaire I worked through for Annie at Poetic & Chic.
thank you Annie-It was very therapeutic,
better than  Spring cleaning or a detox cleanse, & what is that all about anyway?

Q from Annie: What film could you watch over and over and still find something inspiring? & Why?

There are actually many- and though it isn't necessarily my favorite movie of them all by any means, that question would  never be answered. The Mike Leigh movie Topsy Turvy is always viewing perfection.
Have you seen it?

 It has everything.
The film's central story is the frustration that grows between librettist W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, composer- as the famous team of Gilbert and Sullivan. A visit to an 1887 Japanese Village in Knightsbridge Humphreys' Hall  takes Gilbert to turn to the Orient for grand inspiration-and so begets The Mikado- perfect harmony. Layer upon layer it is Mike Leigh's play within a play, where all the characters were real-the composers, the players and the lovers and wives.

 from Topsy-Turvy
Gilbert: Every theatrical performance is a contrivance by its very nature.
Sullivan: Yes, but this piece consists entirely of an artificial and implausible situation.
Gilbert: If you wish to write a Grand Opera about a prostitute, dying of consumption in a garret, I suggest you contact Mr Ibsen in Oslo. I am sure he will be able to furnish you with something suitably dull. 


Glorious performances by James Broadbent, Allan Corduner as the musical pair

 W.S. Gilbert

   1886 portrait of W. S. Gilbert by Frank Holl
hanging in the NPG by the Millais portrait of Sullivan

 James Broadbent as W.S. Gilbert

dialog  from Topsy- Turvy

Gilbert: I have other things on my mind, you know that.
Kitty: Yes, I do know that, Willie, and I understand, but a little distraction will do you good.
Gilbert: Kitty, I don't want to be distracted.
Kitty: Yes, you do.
Gilbert: Oh, do I? You know my mind better than I do, do you?
Kitty: I know you better than you think I do, Willie.

   Kitty- Gilbert's wife-play by Lesley Manville

Arthur Sullivan

portrait of Arthur Sullivan by Millais, 1888

Alan Corduner as  Arthur Sullivan


  the bedroom- I have to say, one can easily see how Mrs.Ronald's could be seduced.

 the drawing room- lovely too.

the study

 Three Little Maids

 Sybil Grey, Leonora Braham and Jessie Bond in first performances of The Mikado, 1885

& from the movie -

Favorite Moments

Fanny Ronalds and Sir Arthur Sullivan are well played by Eleanor David and Corduner. There is a languid smolder to their moments together on camera. The sets for their rendezvous lend that quality to the scene as do all the sets in the movie. 

 Mrs. Ronalds:
"Lady Colin is endeavoring to persuade us to take up smoking. She's writing an article for the Saturday Review. She proposes that nicotine is a gift from the gods, and if men may benefit from its soothing qualities, why then may women not also? My poor daughter now believes that smoking is an extension of the... communion between a woman and her husband."

Shirley Henderson stars as Leonora Braham  & Yum-Yum in  the Mikado scenes. I've never seen this actress in a role that she did not embody.

Leonora Braham
English soprano, known for her roles in the comic operas of Gilbert &  Sullivan

" Yes, I am indeed beautiful. Sometimes I sit and wonder, in my artless Japanese way, why it is that I am so much more attractive than anybody else in the whole world. Can this be vanity? No! Nature is lovely, and rejoices in her loveliness. I am a child of Nature, and take after my mother. " 

 TOPSY-TURVY is chock full of dialog  laced with humor and innuendo, opera, fashion, costume, culture-social mores & theatre.
What more could anyone want?

"On the whole, the terpsichore was executed very magnifiquely, notwithstanding the topsy-turvydom befuddling Mr.Ko-Ko's entrance."

 all the bold text-are links to the story sources & images-click on them to explore
 more here



  1. Ah! I love the movie, the interiors, and the music, which I have had the pleasure to sing many times. While the interiors can seem busy to our modern eyes, the total sun is as evocative the last aria in the movie- The Moon and I. Such beauty!

  2. Oh, I LOVE G+S!!! I'd never heard of this movie and am going to scour the library for it. My folks were huge light opera fans, and they'd take me around to festivals and performances in the summer, and we'd all sing along. What fun memories this brings back -- thanks so much for posting it. I'm adding it to my "Little Augury recommended Reading & Viewing list"!

  3. We saw The Mikado again last Saturday night in an old theatre in Marietta, GA. The Celt is mad about Gilbert and Sullivan thus we're planning a visit to the Gilbert and Sullivan festival in Gettysburg in the summer.

  4. I love G&S, too, but somehow I missed this film. Thanks so much for the recommendation. Off to order it up. Cheers!

  5. Gaye,

    You never fail to amaze, as in this feast. Bravo

  6. I LOVE Birds of a feather that flock together here. thank you as always for nesting. Gaye

  7. Adore this film and of course G & S!

  8. Lucinda-you of course of one of the Birds, with the amazing display of techicolor!



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