Topsy-Turvy


Directed by: Mike Leigh
Written by:Mike Leigh
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Lesley Manville, Eleanor David
Released: April 13, 2000
Grade: A

Mike Leigh continues his inspiring directing career with his latest ensemble piece, Topsy-Turvy.  Leigh has the creative talent to drive his films through characterisation rather than plots and this film is no exception.

Topsy-Turvy is a look at the true story of William Gilbert (Broadbent) and Arthur Sullivan (Corduner) who together created musicals for the Savoy theatre.  Their previous creations included the HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance.  However the public is tiring of the familiarity that is encroaching their new works.  Their latest, has struggled at the box-office and Sullivan has had enough.

Sullivan is the composer and desires to create a grand opera where his music can truly shine rather than merely supporting words.  Gilbert is the writer who constantly relies on scripts with magic and worlds that are “topsy-turvy”.

Seemingly at the end of their successful career together, Gilbert attends a Japanese exhibition with his wife, which sets of a spark that would pen The Mikado, a comedic musical based on the lifestyle of the Japanese.  Sullivan is impressed and agrees to put music to the words and the rest is history...

Topsy-Turvy is a wonderful look behind the scenes of a theatrical production.  Set in the late 1800s, all the characters are incredibly played and it makes for highly intriguing viewing.  All the players have little nuances to them and as the film progresses, a little more of each is revealed.

Nothing more can be said about the incredible sets, makeup and costumes - no stone has been left unturned.  The script is phenomenal and deserves the Oscar nomination it receives.  The story is not enhanced for comedic effect but rather plays as it really was.  The language and dialogue are beautifully crafted and echo the era in which it is set.

Not to be missed, Topsy-Turvy is a triumph and another feather in the hat of Mike Leigh.  Sure it’s over two and a half hours but the time is not wasted.  A rarity is modern cinema, a screenplay that can actually go the distance.