Review: Cox and Box, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

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

Chris Monks’ revival of Arthur Sullivan’s farce, Cox and Box, and his own (with Richard Atkinson’s) complementary ‘Legacy’ seem almost a continuation of last year’s run, so soon have they reappeared.

However, this does not diminish the fun as a new team (with the exception of the returning Lara Stubbs) take on the challenge of making farce something rather more than just the vicar’s trousers falling down.

Both plays observe and use the conventions: absurdist sight gags, arbitrary exits and entrances, the defiance of logic. A typical example is the way Arthur Sullivan’s facility with mock sentimental ballads is put to good use as as John Box (Emilia Williams) serenades a rasher of bacon.

Under Chris Monks’ direction, the Cox and Box characters have become trouser roles for Emilia Williams and Lara Stubbs. Both deliver bravura performances. Had they been males, I am sure they would have been twirling moustaches. Darren Southworth wears the crinolines as Mrs Bouncer.

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

In a post-EU-exit Britain, two Polish workers (Emilia 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 (Darren).

The singing, acting and dancing are, if anything, even better in Mrs Bouncer’s Legacy. The song, Yorkshire is so Beautiful, sung by two Polish ‘immigrants’, in bogus Yorkshire accents, cataloguing the attractions of God’s Country, will live long in the memory.

Richard Atkinson arranged and created the music, but Mark Gordon played piano.

Chris Monks’ witty and highly literate script draws interesting parallels between Victorian Britain and the present day. Sadly, it is not as simple as the ending of Mrs Bouncer’s Legacy implies to convert the bigoted Bob Narks’s of the world. Some serious messages are lurking here beneath the fun.

Review: Mike Tilling