HOBSON’S CHOICE, London, To 10 September

by Harold Brighouse.

Vaudeville Theatre to 10 September
404 Strand, London WC2R 0NH to 10 September 2016.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm. Mat Thur & Sat 2.30 pm.
Runs 2hr 20 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 0330 333 4814.

Review: William Russell 15 June

A Choice worth making– a fine revival.
Strongly cast and very handsomely staged this revival of Harold Brighouse’s famous comedy is well worth catching. It is a good example of the well made play offering three stellar roles and giving the supporting players parts worth playing.

Martin Shaw is on superb blustering pompous form as Henry Horatio Hobson, the despotic owner of a Salford shoe shop who likes his liquor and bullies his three daughters, notably the eldest, the plain and efficient Maggie, played by Naomi Frederick.

In the cellar the cobblers toil, underpaid and also bullied. One day in comes a posh lady, Mrs Hepworth, a gorgon done with style by Joanna McCallum, who is in search of the man who made her boots. He is Willie Mossop, played by Bryan Dick, the most downtrodden of Hobson’s employees.

Maggie, who has just been firmly told spinsterhood is her lot by her father, sees something in the shambling lad and proceeds to lead him to the altar while her sisters, a Goneril and Regan in the making, who have more socially elevated men in mind, look on aghast. It all works well in the end, with Willie revealing unsuspected depths, Maggie proving that it will be a partnership rather than a case of her wearing the trousers, and Hobson getting his well deserved comeuppance.

The lines are funny, Wilie gets the best ones and Bryan Dick delivers them perfectly, creating an endearing shambolic figure, while Naomi Frederick’s Maggie is a perfect mixture of a woman who wants to smash the glass ceiling and does so while liberating Willie in the process. There is a perfectly sound social background to the comedy which adds it its power as a play.

It was written in 1911 when shop workers had truly dreadful working conditions. The boots Mrs Hepworth buys so casually cost more than Willie’s weekly wages, forerunners of some of today’s handbags. Maybe it is glossed over a little, but Jonathan Church’s production is a model of its kind, the West End play done as it should be in very fine and surprising sets by Simon Higlett.

Vickey Hobson: Gabrielle Dempsey.
Alice Hobson: Florence Hall.
Maggie Hobson: Naomi Frederick.
Albert Prosser: Joe Bannister.
Henry Horatio Hobson: Martin Shaw.
Mrs Hepworth: Joanna McCallum.
Jim Heeler: Christopher Timothy.
Timothy Wadlow: David Shaw-Parker.
Willie Mossop: Bryan Dick.
Ada Figgins: Emily Johnstone.
Freddie Beenstock: Ryan Saunders.
Dr McFarlane: Ken Drury.

Director: Jonathan Church.
Designer: Simon Higlett.
Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell.
Sound Designer: Mike Walker.
Composer: Matthew Scott.
Associate Director: Rupert Hands.

2016-06-16 20:27:37

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