The Banana Box is a play for three men and two women. When Noel Parker, a young student, arrives to take up residence in the digs he had visited earlier he is somewhat disillusionment, both with the rooms and with the landlord, Rooksby. His disillusionment increases when he finds he is to share; and finally he discovers his partner is a young black man, Philip. A working relationship, however, develops between them. Philip, reputedly the son of a Chief, is an object of interest to Rooksby, who enjoys picturing wild ides of his life and tribal habits. There are also two girls: Ruth (white) and Lucy (black) who have their part in his life. Finally it transpires that Philip’s chieftain is a myth and he himself comes from no further away than Croydon. Noel and Lucy go off together and even Ruth deserts him.
But there is Rooksby, still eager to indulge in his imagining of exotic behaviour in Philip’s ‘country’.
Introducing Rupert Rooksby, the landlord of a gloomy Victorian Leeds boarding house, as he meanders through the house, fumbling in his pockets and scratching his behind, he draws heavily on a cigarette.
NOTE: ALL CAST PHOTOS & PROFILES TAKEN FROM THE APOLLO PROGRAMME.
ALL COPYRIGHT WITH RESPECTED HOLDERS.
Young Noel Parker has arrived – a youthful, clean-shaven student – he is shown into the cramped, attic flat. Of course, it’s not all his, and Noel is put out to learn he is expected to share with another student, Philip Smith, but, as Rupert explains, larger than life Philip came back to the house after Rupert thought he’d seen the last of him. Moreover, to Philip’s annoyance, sharing a flat doesn’t suit him either, but you can’t discourage him – and believe me he’s tried.
Ruth Jones – occupant of the flat below the boys – works at the local college in administration and, with more than a soft spot for Philip, recommended him to Rooksby’s house, and he could not refuse.
Upset and annoyed, young Noel begins to leave, but Rupert prevents him from doing so, encouraging Noel to return, unpack his luggage and make himself at home. Philip of course is angry at Rupert’s disregard of the boys’ proximity and blatant overcrowding, resisting his efforts to budge him.
Now, professing to be the son of an African Chieftain does have it’s benefits with influential minds around, and having ten wives back home helps, he befriends Noel and he eventually concedes to sharing the attic flat. It transpires that not only is Philip a source of intrigue with his cultural tales, but he is also a rival of Rooksby’s for the affections of Miss Ruth Jones. And just to make sure everyone knows, he shows Noel some solid gold cufflinks, which Ruth had bought him, and some letters.
Now, Noel draws the line at reading her letters, but Philip assures him they’re perfectly respectable. Philip confesses that he doesn’t even like her, enjoying the attention, explaining: “We should all spread a little sunshine. Besides, she’s difficult to discourage”. Ruth isn’t his girlfriend though, Lucy is. A smart, studious medical school student with a gift for telling what’s wrong with a person just by looking at them.
Philip arranges with Rupert for Lucy to stay at the attic flat overnight – that’s assuming he can rely on Noel going home for the weekend, as is his habit – in exchange for a stick of the famous love wood for Rupert to burn outside Ruth’s door. Having met the stylish and elegant Lucy – and learnt of Philip’s dishonourable intentions – Noel remains at the flat and is still sitting in the darkened room when Lucy returns from an evening at The George.
By the time Philip arrives back at the flat, Noel and Lucy are becoming romantically involved with each other, but he is not particularly bothered. Ruth discovers how Philip has been humiliating her with his faux affections and games, and retaliates by exposing his biggest secret – he is a charlatan no less! He lives in Croydon with white foster parents! The tribal marks on his cheek were not made from an initiation ceremony but self-induced by a penknife. Noel and Lucy are thoroughly disappointed by these revelations, and they leave together shocked and surprised. Now with Philip humiliated by Ruth, Rooksby can move in, wafting his smoking piece of love wood at Ruth, but sadly to no avail. Why it’s not love wood of course, just a piece of ordinary wood that came off the wardrobe.
Rooksby, clinging to some kind of strange normality, now sympathetically urges Philip to continue with his self-delusions and secrets, and the handsome Mr Smith acquaints Rooksby with an account of the African Mating Ceremony…