REVIEW: Cox and Box at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Cox and Box - Mrs Bouncer's Legacy
Cox and Box - Mrs Bouncer's Legacy

When was the last time you saw a full-throttle farce? I think I have to go back as far as Brian Rix.

It certainly takes a while to revive an 
appreciation of the conventions: abrupt shifts in time, arbitrary exits and entrances, the defiance of logic.

Once you have made the adjustments though, you just have to surrender to the fun and the jokes. They come thick and fast in this excellent evening of entertainment.

The first half is Sir Arthur Sullivan’s early comic tale, Cox and Box.

Under the scheming and avaricious landlady, Mrs Bouncer, two lodgers share the same room - one by day the other by night. All goes well until one of the characters returns home unexpectedly.

Under Chris Monks’ direction, the Cox and Box characters have become trouser roles for Charlotte Harwood and Lara Stubbs.

Following the usual misunderstandings, misapprehensions and mayhem, the two discover they are in fact brothers. The fact that one does not have a strawberry birth mark proves it.

Naturally, the crinolines role is played by a male (the splendid Paul Ryan) as the well upholstered Mrs Bouncer.

The second half of the evening brings us up to date.

In a post-EU-exit Britain, two Polish workers (Charlotte and Lara) occupy a room rented out to only one of them, thereby inverting the deception of Cox and Box.

Their landlord is the xenophobic (much fun is extracted from this word) slob, Bob Narks (Paul).

The singing, acting and dancing are, if anything, even better in Mrs Bouncer’s Legacy. The song, “Ee’s got us by the short and curlies”, extracted from a phrase book entitled “Ee Up Lad”, sung by two Polish ‘immigrants’, in bogus Yorkshire accents, will live long in the memory.

Chris Monks’ witty and highly literate script draws interesting parallels between Victorian Britain and the present day. Some serious messages lurk beneath the fun.

I heard one audience member suggest that the evening was a ‘summer pantomime’. However, you describe it, the audience loved it and the curtain closed to rapturous applause.

It runs until Saturday August 30.

Review by Mike Tilling