Topsy-Turvy


2h 41m 1999

Brief Synopsis

William Schwenck Gilbert is the librettist, writing the words. Arthur Sullivan is the composer, writing the music. Gilbert is the very model of a 19th-century British gentleman, an overly proper married man certain that he knows best. For nearly a decade, Gilbert and Sullivan's collaborations have d

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1999
Production Company
Roger Sampson
Distribution Company
October Films/USA Films
Location
London, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 41m

Synopsis

William Schwenck Gilbert is the librettist, writing the words. Arthur Sullivan is the composer, writing the music. Gilbert is the very model of a 19th-century British gentleman, an overly proper married man certain that he knows best. For nearly a decade, Gilbert and Sullivan's collaborations have delighted the English people. Their popular comic operas have recouped handsomely for the successful Savoy Theatre... But, in 1884, as a London heat wave cuts into the theater trade, their latest work, "Princess Ida," receives lukewarm press. Sullivan rejects Gilbert's next idea as "topsy-turvy" and unbelievable, and although Gilbert tries to accomodate him, they cannot agree. Mired at a creative impasse, Gilbert and Sullivan can barely converse. Then, Gilbert's wife, Lucy "Kitty" Gilbert, drags him along to a Japanese exhibition--exposure to the very different culture begins inspiration to embark on the production of "The Mikado."

Crew

Richard Ackland

Other

Richard Addison

Music

Chris Allies

Titles

Angela Bailey

Other

Andrew Baker

Music

Eddie Baker

Props

Roy Baker

Foley

Ian Balmain

Music

Ray Bateman

Other

Orin Beaton

Boom Operator

Clive Bell

Music

Roger Benedict

Music

Chris Bevan

Music

Christine Blundell

Makeup

Jim Booth

Props

Lucy Bristow

Camera Operator

Lucy Bristow

Other

Timothy Brown

Music

Hilary Browning

Music

David Bryant

Other

Richard Buckley

Electrician

Nicholas Bucknall

Music

Anthony Burgess

Special Thanks To

Anthony Burton

Carpenter

John Bush

Set Decorator

Richard Cameron

Carpenter

Kirstin Chalmers

Makeup Artist

Colin Chambers

Music

Rosie Chambers

Researcher

Simon Channing-williams

Producer

Kevin Chapple

Special Thanks To

Anthony Chidell

Music

Victoria Clarke

Wardrobe Assistant

Lisa Cliffod

Other

Jane Clive

Costumes

Andrea Coathupe

On-Set Dresser

Andrew Cobbing

Special Thanks To

Charlie Collins

Driver

Ed Colyer

Foley Mixer

Denise Connell

Music Editor

Michael Connell

Music Editor

Penny Corfield

Special Thanks To

Sophie Cornet

Other

Charles Cottrell

Other

Frankie Cox

Electrician

Andrea Cripps

Costumes

David Crossman

Wardrobe Supervisor

Shani D'cruze

Special Thanks To

Diane Dancklefsen

Art Director

Mark David

Music

Carl Davis

Music

Steve Deane

Carpenter

Clive Dobbins

Music

Martin Duncan

Gaffer

Jacqueline Durran

Assistant Costume Designer

Graham Easton

Other

David Eden

Special Thanks To

Katina Ellery

Researcher

Jonathan Evans-jones

Music

Julian Farrell

Music

Charlotte Finlay

Wardrobe Assistant

Andrew Forrest

Art Assistant

Magot Forster

Wardrobe

Gary Fox

Props

Tim Fraser

Sound Recordist

Joseph Frohlich

Music

David Fuest

Music

Terence Gamble

Other

John Gardner

Special Thanks To

Martin Gatt

Music

Nina Gold

Casting

Andrew Goodman

Special Thanks To

David Gordon

Music

Lalit Goyal

Lighting

Dan Grace

Wardrobe Assistant

Alan Graham

Electrician

Andrew T Grant

Carpenter

David Greenless

Music

Liz Griffiths

Production

Pauline Griffiths

Foley

Celia Haining

Assistant Editor

Loveday Harding

Boom Operator

Judith Hatton

Special Thanks To

Dean Hayward

Carpenter

Nick Heckstall-smith

Assistant Director

Lindy Hemming

Costume Designer

Michael Hext

Music

David Hill

Carpenter

Joji Hirota

Music

Derek Honeybun

Other

Scott Horan

Assistant Location Manager

Benjamin Howard

Production Assistant

David Russell Hulme

Special Thanks To

Dianne Jamieson

Makeup Artist

Francesca Jaynes

Choreographer

Daniel John

Assistant Director

Peter Joly

Sound Editor

Brian Jones

Special Thanks To

Iain King

Music

Timothy Kipling

Music

Alexandra Kosevic

Other

Nicola Latham

Wardrobe

Harriet Lawrence

Assistant Location Manager

Richard Layton

Music

Charles Leatherland

Other

Neil Lee

Location Manager

Mike Leigh

Screenplay

David Lewisohn

Other

Jo Littlejohn

Other

Lisa Lloyd

On-Set Dresser

Danny Longhurst

Sound Editor

George J Low

Special Thanks To

Georgina Lowe

Associate Producer

Tatiana Lund

Other

Wayne Marsh

Carpenter

Tom Martin

Music

Tony Martin

Hairdresser

Nicola Matthews

Makeup Artist

Helen Mattocks

Wardrobe Assistant

Laura May

Costumes

Paula Mcbreen

Production Coordinator

Leon Mccarthy

Carpenter

Adam Mccreight

Props Assistant

Simon Mein

Photography

Justin Miller

Accounting Assistant

Tanya Miller

Graphics

Richard Mills

Propman

Barry Moll

Construction Manager

Ken Monger

Best Boy

Peter Mulloy

Special Thanks To

Neil Murphy

Wardrobe Assistant

Mark Neale

Assistant Editor

Eugenie Neilson

Scenic Artist

Clive Noakes

Color Timer

Michael O'connor

Assistant Costume Designer

William O'sullivan

Music

Steve Oakes

Assistant

Andy Ormesher

Other

Stephen Orton

Music

Justin Overhill

Scenic Artist

Stephen Pearton

Carpenter

Dave Perschky

Carpenter

Anthony Pike

Music

Philip Plumb

Special Thanks To

Dick Pope

Director Of Photography

Dick Pope

Camera Operator

Trefor Proud

Makeup Artist

Julia Rayner

Choreographer

Tom Read

Property Master

Deborah Reade

Assistant

Deborah Reade

Post-Production Supervisor

Terrence Rees

Special Thanks To

Adrian Rhodes

Rerecording

Adam Roach

Costumes

Josh Robertson

Assistant Director

Mark Rose

Assistant Sound Editor

David Rosenbaum

Driver

Alison Ross

Sound

Jonathan Sales

Assistant Editor

Robin Sales

Editor

Roger Sampson

Production Insurance

Loraine Schneider

Scenic Artist

Bbrian Scott

Driver

Helen Scott

Art Director

Matthew Scrivener

Music

Tim Shanahan

Wardrobe

Brian Shemmings

Advisor

Marc Shepherd

Special Thanks To

Jesse Shereff

Special Thanks To

Dan Shoring

Other

Andrew Shulman

Music

Andrea Slater

Production Assistant

Andrew Smith

Music

Michael Prestwood Smith

Rerecording

Paula Spinks

Continuity

Paula Spinks

Assistant Director

Michael Standish

Production

Jane W Stedman

Special Thanks To

Victoria Stevens

Assistant Editor

Eve Stewart

Set Decorator

Eve Stewart

Production Designer

Chris Stoaling

Other

Heather Storr

Script Supervisor

Colin Strachan

Grip

Iain Struthers

Other

Sir Arthur Sullivan

Other

Sir Arthur Sullivan

Music

Ted Swanscott

Adr Mixer

Melvyn Tarran

Special Thanks To

Ian C Taylor

Carpenter

David Theodore

Music

Claire Thornton

Wardrobe

Selwyn Tillett

Special Thanks To

John Timperley

Music

Hannah Titley

Assistant Director

Will Towers

Boom Operator

Remo Tozzi

Props Assistant

Stephen J Turnbull

Special Thanks To

Will Tyler

Production Accountant

Richard Undrell

Sound

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1999
Production Company
Roger Sampson
Distribution Company
October Films/USA Films
Location
London, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 41m

Award Wins

Best Costume Design

1999

Best Makeup

1999

Award Nominations

Set Decoration

1999

Best Original Screenplay

1999

Articles

Topsy Turvy - TOPSY-TURVY - Mike Leigh's 1999 Take on the Partnership of William S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan


On its surface, Topsy-Turvy is not the kind of film people expect from Mike Leigh, Britain's auteur of loose-limbed social dramas and character comedies. Set in the world of London theater in the mid-1880s, the film tackles the creative partnership between W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, the reigning kings of light operetta, at a turning in their career. Their latest show, "Princess Ida," is a flop, at least by their standards. The team shows "symptoms of fatigue," writes one critic, while a company actor remarks "I fear dear Mr. Gilbert has run out of ideas." Composer Sullivan (Allan Corduner) is tired (both physically and creatively) of repeating the clichés of the populist genre and has ambitions to make his mark in grand opera. And librettist and lyricist Gilbert (Jim Broadbent), called the "king of topsy-turvydom" for his whimsical tales of magical transformations of ordinary lives (an all-too-accurate description that rankles the author), is in a rut that even he recognizes but can't bring himself to admit.

And then, dragged to the Japanese Exhibition by his devoted (and emotionally neglected) wife Kitty (Lesley Manville in a heartbreaking performance), Gilbert finds inspiration in the heretofore unexplored culture on display, from the delicacy of the manners and rituals to the dramatic theater of kabuki. Almost in spite of himself, he is inspired to create not just a new story but an entirely fresh, exotic world of characters and colors and cultural wonder, and the excitement reverberates across the company and into the marrow of what we see turn into the team's most successful production ever: "The Mikado."

Ostensibly a mix of historical biopic and backstage drama, Topsy-Turvy is ultimately a study in the act of creative collaboration, illustrated through the development a single production from inspiration through rehearsals to performance. And for all the period style and 19th century manners and generous scenes of Gilbert and Sullivan shows staged in their fullness, Leigh hasn't changed his filmmaking style for this drama. Like his films before and after, he developed the script in collaboration with his actors, working out characters, scenes and dialogue based on is sketches and ideas. The result is a bright, densely-detailed delight of creative inspiration, theatrical soap opera and 19th century British culture, an Altman-esque canvas painted in the shades of Leigh's own sensibility. Topsy-Turvy brings a freshness to the formality of 19th century decorum and conventions and an artist's appreciation to the challenges of creative work and the dynamics of personality and creative strengths between collaborators.

It's Leigh's most sprawling production and his most disciplined. He explores the culture of theater and the theater business from the top (where Gilbert and Sullivan live large on their enormous success) to the workaday world behind the scenes at the Savoy Theater, and weaves the stories and personalities of dozens of characters through the drama on and off stage, giving everyone their moment to shine within the ensemble. There are too many to them out by name, but particularly notable are Timothy Spall as Richard Temple, a comic specialty player and audience favorite whose larger-than-life portrayal hide a vulnerable man, and Shirley Henderson as the company ingénue, a single mother with a drinking problem who has given up on romance rather than face rejection.

Centering the entire enterprise are the two authors, as different as can be. Corduner's Arthur Sullivan is an ebullient social creature roused back to the partnership by the renewal of creative energy. Broadbent's William Gilbert is curiously dour and gloomy for a man with such a talent for playful lyrics and witty wordplay in his romantic fantasies. While not exactly adversaries, they aren't really friends either, simply business partners with a particularly successful creative partnership, and the film rarely shows the two men actually together in the same room, let alone swapping ideas.

The worlds are almost segregated until rehearsals begin on "The Mikado" and the authors become intimately involved with the players and musicians, choreographer and costumers, guiding their vision to life, each in his own manner. Sullivan is practically aglow as he rehearses the singers and musician, buoyant even when correcting a performer with smile, while the understated Gilbert speaks softly and firmly, working his deadpan wit into his painstaking direction of every aspect of the staging and presentation. It's the closest he comes to expressions of joy, and even he can't hide how touched he is by the benevolence of the chorus when they plead the case of a fellow actor.

This is not a simple, idealistic portrait of benevolence and the healing power of art to overcome all. The business of theater is never far from the art and more than one member of the troupe is carried along by one addiction or another. Leigh's camera takes us through the proscenium arch and past the fantasy to see the effort of actors sweating and straining behind the greasepaint and heavy costumes. And yet it only adds to the appreciation of the art itself. "I decided that it would be good to make a film about what we do, what we all go through," Leigh explained in an interview. Emphasis on the "we." Gilbert and Sullivan are at the center of Topsy-Turvy but Leigh, a man whose work is built on a close collaboration with his performers and key members of his crew, uses the crucible of this theatrical production to explore the process of how takes an entire company of collaborators to create theater. Or, by extension, cinema.

Topsy-Turvy was originally released on DVD in 2000. Criterion remasters the film for DVD and Blu-ray in a superb director-approved digital transfer supervised by cinematographer Dick Pope. Though not exactly a theatrical spectacular, the film is rich with period detail and the glorious costumes and sets of the stage productions and the new edition captures everything crisply, with rich, deep colors.

The two-disc DVD and single-disc Blu-ray release features commentary by director Mike Leigh (originally recorded in 1999 for the film's initial DVD release), a new video conversation between Leigh and Gary Yershon (the film's musical director), Leigh's 1992 short film A Sense of History (written by and starring actor Jim Broadbent), an archival featurette from 1999 that includes interviews with Leigh and his stars, and four deleted scenes, plus a booklet with an essay by Amy Taubin.

For more information about Topsy-Turvy, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Topsy-Turvy, go to TCM Shopping.

by Sean Axmaker
Topsy Turvy - Topsy-Turvy - Mike Leigh's 1999 Take On The Partnership Of William S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan

Topsy Turvy - TOPSY-TURVY - Mike Leigh's 1999 Take on the Partnership of William S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan

On its surface, Topsy-Turvy is not the kind of film people expect from Mike Leigh, Britain's auteur of loose-limbed social dramas and character comedies. Set in the world of London theater in the mid-1880s, the film tackles the creative partnership between W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, the reigning kings of light operetta, at a turning in their career. Their latest show, "Princess Ida," is a flop, at least by their standards. The team shows "symptoms of fatigue," writes one critic, while a company actor remarks "I fear dear Mr. Gilbert has run out of ideas." Composer Sullivan (Allan Corduner) is tired (both physically and creatively) of repeating the clichés of the populist genre and has ambitions to make his mark in grand opera. And librettist and lyricist Gilbert (Jim Broadbent), called the "king of topsy-turvydom" for his whimsical tales of magical transformations of ordinary lives (an all-too-accurate description that rankles the author), is in a rut that even he recognizes but can't bring himself to admit. And then, dragged to the Japanese Exhibition by his devoted (and emotionally neglected) wife Kitty (Lesley Manville in a heartbreaking performance), Gilbert finds inspiration in the heretofore unexplored culture on display, from the delicacy of the manners and rituals to the dramatic theater of kabuki. Almost in spite of himself, he is inspired to create not just a new story but an entirely fresh, exotic world of characters and colors and cultural wonder, and the excitement reverberates across the company and into the marrow of what we see turn into the team's most successful production ever: "The Mikado." Ostensibly a mix of historical biopic and backstage drama, Topsy-Turvy is ultimately a study in the act of creative collaboration, illustrated through the development a single production from inspiration through rehearsals to performance. And for all the period style and 19th century manners and generous scenes of Gilbert and Sullivan shows staged in their fullness, Leigh hasn't changed his filmmaking style for this drama. Like his films before and after, he developed the script in collaboration with his actors, working out characters, scenes and dialogue based on is sketches and ideas. The result is a bright, densely-detailed delight of creative inspiration, theatrical soap opera and 19th century British culture, an Altman-esque canvas painted in the shades of Leigh's own sensibility. Topsy-Turvy brings a freshness to the formality of 19th century decorum and conventions and an artist's appreciation to the challenges of creative work and the dynamics of personality and creative strengths between collaborators. It's Leigh's most sprawling production and his most disciplined. He explores the culture of theater and the theater business from the top (where Gilbert and Sullivan live large on their enormous success) to the workaday world behind the scenes at the Savoy Theater, and weaves the stories and personalities of dozens of characters through the drama on and off stage, giving everyone their moment to shine within the ensemble. There are too many to them out by name, but particularly notable are Timothy Spall as Richard Temple, a comic specialty player and audience favorite whose larger-than-life portrayal hide a vulnerable man, and Shirley Henderson as the company ingénue, a single mother with a drinking problem who has given up on romance rather than face rejection. Centering the entire enterprise are the two authors, as different as can be. Corduner's Arthur Sullivan is an ebullient social creature roused back to the partnership by the renewal of creative energy. Broadbent's William Gilbert is curiously dour and gloomy for a man with such a talent for playful lyrics and witty wordplay in his romantic fantasies. While not exactly adversaries, they aren't really friends either, simply business partners with a particularly successful creative partnership, and the film rarely shows the two men actually together in the same room, let alone swapping ideas. The worlds are almost segregated until rehearsals begin on "The Mikado" and the authors become intimately involved with the players and musicians, choreographer and costumers, guiding their vision to life, each in his own manner. Sullivan is practically aglow as he rehearses the singers and musician, buoyant even when correcting a performer with smile, while the understated Gilbert speaks softly and firmly, working his deadpan wit into his painstaking direction of every aspect of the staging and presentation. It's the closest he comes to expressions of joy, and even he can't hide how touched he is by the benevolence of the chorus when they plead the case of a fellow actor. This is not a simple, idealistic portrait of benevolence and the healing power of art to overcome all. The business of theater is never far from the art and more than one member of the troupe is carried along by one addiction or another. Leigh's camera takes us through the proscenium arch and past the fantasy to see the effort of actors sweating and straining behind the greasepaint and heavy costumes. And yet it only adds to the appreciation of the art itself. "I decided that it would be good to make a film about what we do, what we all go through," Leigh explained in an interview. Emphasis on the "we." Gilbert and Sullivan are at the center of Topsy-Turvy but Leigh, a man whose work is built on a close collaboration with his performers and key members of his crew, uses the crucible of this theatrical production to explore the process of how takes an entire company of collaborators to create theater. Or, by extension, cinema. Topsy-Turvy was originally released on DVD in 2000. Criterion remasters the film for DVD and Blu-ray in a superb director-approved digital transfer supervised by cinematographer Dick Pope. Though not exactly a theatrical spectacular, the film is rich with period detail and the glorious costumes and sets of the stage productions and the new edition captures everything crisply, with rich, deep colors. The two-disc DVD and single-disc Blu-ray release features commentary by director Mike Leigh (originally recorded in 1999 for the film's initial DVD release), a new video conversation between Leigh and Gary Yershon (the film's musical director), Leigh's 1992 short film A Sense of History (written by and starring actor Jim Broadbent), an archival featurette from 1999 that includes interviews with Leigh and his stars, and four deleted scenes, plus a booklet with an essay by Amy Taubin. For more information about Topsy-Turvy, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Topsy-Turvy, go to TCM Shopping. by Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of two 1999 awards, including Best Picture (along with Spike Jonze's "Being John Malkovich") and Best Director from the National Society of Film Critics.

Winner of two 1999 awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, from the New York Film Critics Circle.

Released in United States Winter December 17, 1999

Expanded Release in United States January 14, 2000

Expanded Release in United States January 21, 2000

Expanded Release in United States January 28, 2000

Expanded Release in United States February 11, 2000

Released in United States on Video June 20, 2000

Released in United States 1999

Released in United States September 1999

Released in United States October 1999

Released in United States November 1999

Released in United States July 2000

Released in United States 2008

Shown at New York Film Festival (Festival Centerpiece) September 24 - October 10, 1999.

Shown at Venice International Film Festival (in competition) September 1-11, 1999.

Shown at MIFED in Milan, Italy October 17-22, 1999.

Shown at London Film Festival November 3-18, 1999.

Shown at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival July 5-15, 2000.

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Tributes) April 24-May 8, 2008.

Completed shooting October 24, 1998.

Began shooting July 6, 1998.

Released in United States Winter December 17, 1999

Expanded Release in United States January 14, 2000

Expanded Release in United States January 21, 2000

Expanded Release in United States January 28, 2000

Expanded Release in United States February 11, 2000

Released in United States on Video June 20, 2000

Released in United States 1999 (Shown at New York Film Festival (Festival Centerpiece) September 24 - October 10, 1999.)

Released in United States September 1999 (Shown at Venice International Film Festival (in competition) September 1-11, 1999.)

Released in United States October 1999 (Shown at MIFED in Milan, Italy October 17-22, 1999.)

Released in United States November 1999 (Shown at London Film Festival November 3-18, 1999.)

Released in United States July 2000 (Shown at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival July 5-15, 2000.)

Released in United States 2008 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Tributes) April 24-May 8, 2008.)

Winner of Best Actor (Jim Broadbent) at the 1999 Venice International Film Festival.