On Stage: Reviews

Review: Cox and Box

Yes, they’re back. Mr Cox and Mr Box with their landlady Mrs Bouncer have returned to Scarborough for more musical mayhem in this delicious double bill. If you caught them first time round you’ll know that Sir Arthur Sullivan’s brilliant one-act musical farce is followed by Mrs Bouncer’s Legacy, set in modern-day Scarborough. Two new cast members – Darren Southworth and Emilia Williams – join Lara Stubbs, with Mark Gordon doing the honours on the piano.

If you didn’t catch them last year then you’re in for a treat. And if you did, then go again. Second time around the songs are even wittier, the sight gags better and the general mayhem somehow more hysterical. You notice things that have passed you by first time around – I hadn’t noticed that, as well as Mr Cox and Mr Box, there is a Mr Knox who, of course, lives near the docks.

Sullivan’s plot – as if it mattered – revolves around the hopeless efforts of a boarding house landlady trying to swindle a couple of lads by letting the same room to them. They become painfully aware of each other’s presence when a bacon rasher and a chop appear on the selfsame griddle.

Fast forward 150 years and the same boarding house room is now shared by twin sisters. Polish migrants, they are swindling the landlord out of a double rent, while making valiant efforts to pose as Tykes. Why? Because ‘UZIP’ is the anti-immigrant party now in government – and Bob the landlord a paid-up member.

The songs are wonderful, voices a delight. A sublime double-bill, played with verve and wit – don’t miss.

Roger Osborne

Cox & Box / Mrs Bouncer's Legacy run at the SJT until 30 May. Then touring in Sheffield, Middlesbrough and Wakefield

Review: My Perfect Mind

Is this a play about an actor called Edward Petherbridge who thinks he’s King Lear, or about a king called Lear who thinks he’s an actor, played by Edward Petherbridge? Come to that, is it a play, a show or stand-up? If that sounds horribly postmodern then fear not. My Perfect Mind manages to be both brilliantly inventive and old-fashioned hilarious at the same time.

Review: Cox and Box bounces along

The jokes start even before the curtain’s gone up on this musical farce. It’s a classic set-up of mistaken identity, twins, inept hiding, revolving doors, cross dressing, and all that malarkey. In fact, the dafter and more corny the plot, the better it gets.

The first of these two one-act plays, themselves not twins but certainly brothers in arms, is Victorian. Mr Cox the printer and Mr Box the hatter are unwittingly sharing a room. Their landlady Mrs Bouncer (Paul Ryan) is of course orchestrating the ripoff. But things get tense when Mr Box comes home early.

Here, all the players are cross dressing and what a boost it gives to the laughs. Charlotte Harwood (Box) and Lara Stubbs (Cox) are each fine singers and actors, but it’s when they get together that the music really soars. That said, it’s hard to top the surreal ‘Hush-a-bye bacon’ solo by Stubbs as she serenades her breakfast.

Racing on to the second play, we’re now in the present and it’s role reversal for the players as they become sleazy landlord Bob Narks and his twin Polish lodgers. Now the trick is on him as they pretend to be one person. But any sympathy for his rent loss is stamped on by his xenophobic ranting.

Writer Chris Monks, who also directs, and his musical collaborator Richard Atkinson take a risk in matching their new comic opera with Sir Arthur Sullivan’s original. It’s well up to the task, the pairing working to produce a great evening’s entertainment. Atkinson at the keys on stage throughout is another delight.

The first play has the advantage of the costumes and some great opportunities for the singers to show off their voices. The second has more bite, and equally good lyrics. A topical paean to all things Yorkshire – oh yes, we’re pals with the French after le Tour but still deadly rivals when it comes to national treasures – makes for a rousing finale.

Janis Bright

Cox & Box – Mrs Bouncer’s legacy runs at the SJT until 30 August.

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