COX AND BOX – MRS BOUNCER’S LEGACY
adapted, with a sequel, by Chris Monks and Richard Atkinson.
Stephen Joseph Theatre (McCarthy auditorium) Westborough YO11 1JW In rep to 30 August 2014.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 August.
Musical recreation and invention makes for a happy holiday show which hits home.
An adaptable summer at the Stephen Joseph helpfully reschedules Thursday performances to 7.15pm, ensuring they end in time to cross the road and catch the last train from Scarborough (did the early-season production of Last Train to Scarborough set minds thinking?).
Then there’s Alan Ayckbourn directing a musical adaptation of his 1998 The Boy Who Fell Into a Book. And Artistic Director Chris Monks continues his creative reworking of the operatic repertoire with the short piece Sir Arthur Sullivan composed for F C Burnand, before being waylaid by W S Gilbert and founding a new musical style – which Monks has already creatively explored.
Burnand and Sullivan’s short piece Cox and Box derived from a farce called Box and Cox by a master of Victorian farce, John Maddison Morton – a favourite with Stephen Joseph Associate Director Henry Bell. So, it all fits naturally into place.
As, almost, do Cox and Box, unknowingly sharing a lodging, one by day, the other at night, to the profit of landlord Bouncer. Bouncer changes sex between various versions. Having a male actor playing her as a female emphasises the character’s false position, and allows Paul Ryan to be something of a Victorian pantomime grande dame (and evident successor to York Dame Berwick Kaler, should he vacate the role some century soon).
Charlotte Harwood and Lara Stubbs bring a lithe freshness to the male lodgers who come upon evidence of each other’s presence. Supported by Richard Atkinson’s piano accompaniment, it’s finely played on Tim Meacock’s set, which evokes the sense of a Victorian rooming-house. Till it becomes plainer after the interval, with Monks’ modern-day story, linking landlordly rapacity to political prejudice as two Polish sisters, especially the one who speaks English, try to conceal their nationality from the John Bully of a house-owner.
It realigns the loyalties, lodgers against landlord. But as the feathers fly, Monks and his strong cast maintain the humour, up to the final, finely-made point of that even if we’ve roughed it in life, “Xenophobia you must shun, For in Heaven when we’ve snuffed it, We will all be joined as one”.
John James Box/Krystyna Narkiewicz: Charlotte Harwood.
Mrs Florence Bouncer/Bob Narks: Paul Ryan.
James John Cox/ Urszula Narkiewixz: Lara Stubbs.
Francis Fox/Fred Showpan: Richard Atkinson.
Director: Chris Monks.
Designer: Tim Meacock.
Lighting: Tigger Johnson.
Composer/Arranger/Musical Director: Richard Atkinson.
Choreographer: Kraig Thornber.