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The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   W. S. Gilbert 1836-1911

Synopsis

by Andrew Crowther

The scene is the Box Lobby of a theatre during the performance of a play, The Realm of Joy. The doors to three boxes are visible, as is the Cloakwoman's room. The Box Keeper enters with two spectators, whom he shoves into an already overcrowded box. He and the Cloakwoman discuss the scandalous success of the play, which holds up to mockery the most dearly-loved public figures. Its very performance is an affront to the Lord High Disinfectant. "Society is furious, Society loves its Lord High Disinfectant" - but Society still flocks to see the play. They leave.

Enter Jopp and Quisby, two young rakes who come to this theatre night after night, not to see the play but to see the spectators - such spectators, in fact, as the Jellybag family, which now enters.

Mr and Mrs Jellybag have brought with them their two daughters ("Not bad," says Quisby appraisingly). But, Mr Jellybag explains to the Cloakwoman, he will protect the morals of his daughters by sending them out of the box whenever the dialogue becomes "politically disgraceful" and placing them under the Cloakwoman's watchful eye for the duration. She agrees to this arrangement reluctantly, and the Jellybags enter their box. At intervals during the rest of the play, the Jellybag daughters pop out of the box to be looked after by the Cloakwoman.

There now enter Wilkinson and Mrs Scruby, enjoying a clandestine assignation at the theatre while Mr Scruby is away in Manchester. Wilkinson has excused himself with his wife by telling her that he has had to go to Birmingham.

And now there enters Mr Scruby, who has an assignation (of course) with Mrs Wilkinson while Mr Wilkinson is away in Birmingham.... From now on you can probably work out the plot for yourselves. Mr Scruby and Mrs Wilkinson have been sold Box Number 4, as have Mr Wilkinson and Mrs Scruby: after much shouting, running, and barricading of doors, the two couples discover each other and embark on a round of improbable explanations. They realise that only by forgiving their spouses can they themselves be forgiven, and as the play in the play ends and the boxes empty, so this play ends.


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