Words by Bolton Rowe and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Nuffield Theatre,
July 1984
Cast List
Aesculapius Carboy
Eliza Smith
Thomas Brown
Mr. Grinder

Notes on this performance

62. The Zoo, Cox & Box, Trial by Jury

Buy one, get two free…

The initial plan was to perform The Sorcerer but a letter from Waterside Amateur Operatic Society explaining that they also had plans for this opera, led to the Committee very kindly giving way. Instead, they could not resist the temptation of putting on the three best known Sullivan one act operettas - The Zoo, Cox & Box and Trial by Jury (Pineapple Poll was also considered) – an irresistible combination to lovers of comic opera but not one likely to appeal to a wider audience.

Philip Johnson was willing to act as MD for all three shows and it was thought a good opportunity to ‘blood’ two new producers, so Philip de Grouchy (Zoo) and Anne Starbuck (Trial) were persuaded to ‘have a go’ – Cox & Box was left in the safe hands of Pam Hoskins. Although a sound idea and one that would benefit the Society in the future, it did encounter difficulties due to the necessity of sharing the available rehearsal and MD time fairly. Sharing the company was also a problem; Colin Sly was Thomas Brown (Zoo) and Cox, Stephen Hill doubled as Aesculapius Carboy (Zoo) and Edwin (Trial) whilst John Whale appeared in The Zoo as Mr Grinder and in Trial as Foreman of the Jury – this arrangement made rehearsing any two shows simultaneously extremely difficult. On top of that, liaising with three producers over a lighting plot to cover all shows must have been a thankless task for Clive Weekes.

The Echo review considered that The Zoo made ‘an excellent curtain raiser with the obvious opportunities for humour, when Thomas Brown (Colin Sly) collapses, exploited to the full. Eliza Smith (Margaret Amey) a vivacious young lady in charge of a refreshment stall, who roams freely among the audience bestowing many a kiss, Aesculapius Carboy (Stephen Hill), Laetitia (Jillian Charnley) and Mr. Grinder (John Whale) complete the small cast which is ably supported by a chorus who enter into the action with real conviction. 

Cox and Box is an admirable production, saw a return of Colin Sly as James John Cox supported by Clifford Lassam as John James Box, and David Jupp – Sergeant Bouncer. Much is made of the hilarious situation of the unscrupulous landlord who double lets a room to two lodgers and the involvement of further characters for the brief finale was an innovation.’ Those extras included Jan Sly as Penelope Anne, Jason Sly as a paperboy and Ted Starks as a policeman.

‘Trial by Jury solves a difficult situation in a truly Gilbertian fashion with Sullivan’s music showing its greatest vitality. Producer Anne Starbuck’s involvement of a cleaner (Christine Spacey) and the arrival of the Judge (Peter Robson) by trapdoor are but two of many amusing touches.’

To gain publicity, Christine Spacey arranged a trip to Cherbourg on Townsend Thoresen Ferries - fully costumed members sang excerpts from the operas on the way out and performed a shortened version of The Pirates of Penzance on the return leg but, somewhat predictably, the ‘three shows in one’ still lost £1678.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo taken before the set had been finished or painted.

 Photo of Company

Front: Margaret Amey (Eliza Smith), Colin Sly (Thomas Brown), Stephen Hill (Aesculapius Carboy), Jillian Charnley (Laetitia)