Cox & Box


Links to the different times
we have performed this show:

(Just the once then)




With this little work, Arthur Sullivan made his first entry into the world of comic opera. He had already completed his first operatic work during the early 1860's, but that work (The Sapphire Necklace or The False Heiress with libretto by H. F. Chorley) never reached the stage, and although the rights of publication were, at one point, assigned to the publisher, Metzler, the opera was never printed.

Cox and Box received its first performance in private on 16 May 1866. This took place at Moray Lodge in Kensington, the home of Arthur Lewis, and the regular venue for the 'Moray Minstrels', a group of musicians, actors and artists. Burnand later claimed that the first performance actually took place at his house three days earlier, but this may have been no more than a rehearsal.

The libretto for this one act little masterpiece was adapted from the famous farce Box and Cox by John Madison Morton, by librettist and sometime editor of Punch, Francis Cowley Burnand.

A year later, the death of Punch artist, Charles Bennett, resulted in the piece being performed for the first time in public at the Adelphi Theatre, and from then on Cox and Box became a favourite, appearing as a curtain raier to many productions world wide.

The triumviretta, in an abridged form, eventually entered the repertoire of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1894 as a partner to another Burnand and Sullivan work, The Chieftain.

Abridged even further, Cox and Box was again staged by the D'Oyly Carte in the 1920's and continued, in the so called 'Savoy Version', to partner at various times The Sorcerer, H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance well into the 1970's.


SCENE - A room in a lodging house
Sergeant Bouncer, an old soldier, has a scheme to get double rent from a single room. By day he lets it to Mr. Box (a printer who is out all night) and by night to Mr. Cox (a hatter who works all day). Whenever either of them asks any awkward questions he sings at length about his days in the militia.

His plan works well until Mr. Cox is, unexpectedly, given a day's holiday and the two lodgers meet. Left alone while Bouncer sorts out another room, they discover they share more than the same bed. Cox is engaged to the widow Penelope Ann Wiggins - a fate that Box escaped by pretending to commit suicide.

They try gambling Penelope Ann away until news arrives that she has been lost at sea and has left her fortune to her 'intended'. They then both try to claim her for themselves. Another letter arrives - she has been found and will arrive any minute. Now they both try to disclaim her! However, she doesn't appear personally, instead leaving a letter to inform them that she intends to marry a Mr. Knox! Relieved, Cox and Box swear eternal friendship and discover, curiously enough, that they are long-lost brothers...