by Harold Brighouse.
New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 12 April.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.15pm.
Audio-described 12 Apr 2.15pm
Captioned 8 Apr.
Post-show Discussion 8 Apr.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.
then Coliseum Theatre Fairbottom Street Oldham OL1 3SW 17 April-10 May 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm (no performance 21 Apr) Mat 26, 30 Apr, 10 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 24 Apr.
BSL Signed 9 May.
Post-show Discussion 8 May.
TICKETS: 0161 624 2829.
Runs 3hr Two intervals.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 March.
Love among the cobblers lovingly revived.
Following Northern Broadsides’ new play about the First World War’s impact on a northern rural community, the New Vic imports Bolton Octagon’s revival of a comedy set in 1880s Salford, but premiered, in 1916, during the war.
Though first seen in New York and London, Harold Brighouse’s play is as northern as the clogs in Hobson’s shop. And David Thacker’s revival is Lancashire to its core, its manners and attitudes grown from a life of factories, pubs and hard work in a society built on industry and common-sense.
The larger New Vic stage emphasises the struggles. In this theatre-in-the-round, Hobson, having chosen to live on past prosperity and drink, is caged-in, encircled by the new generation ready to dethrone him.
When the circle clears Maxwell Hutcheon’s Hobson is left in cross-stage verbal combat with Christopher Villiers’ Scottish doctor. A bonus from the Octagon pairing Hobson with a Lancashire Twelfth Night, these actors reengage after matching blows as temperamental opposites Feste and Malvolio.
New is Susan Twist’s Mrs Hepworth, important to the plot, but not seen a lot. And performed by someone who realises this wealthy customer need only emphasise a single syllable before speaking with an easy assurance of compliance.
Every detail brings a fresh gleam to Brighouse’s script. Michael Shelford’s Will, never treating lines as self-consciously funny, illustrates how Thacker gains laughs by playing the truth of characters and situations. Chief, though, is Natalie Grady’s Maggie, the daughter Hobson has put on the shelf as surely as any of his footwear.
Resembling Olivia arising from her grief (Grady’s Twelfth Night role), Maggie is fired to action by Hobson’s public insults. Ever purposeful, her expression when opposed might seem puzzlement, but is a concentration implying calculation.
And the love that dares to speak its name against parental authority becomes clear on the wedding-night. As in Christopher Luscombe‘s 2011 Sheffield production, the comedy of Maggie lugging Will fearfully to bed is replaced by her angelic re-appearance, black hair offsetting pure candlelit white, leading him lovingly to the first night of their new life – the high point of a resplendent revival.
Alice Hobson: Jessica Barlow.
Jim Heeler: Ian Blower.
Albert Prosser: Tristan Brooke.
Maggie Hobson: Natalie Grady.
Fred Beenstock: Mawgan Gyles.
Ada Figgins: Joanna Higson.
Henry Hobson: Maxwell Hutcheon.
Vickey Hobson: Rosie Jones.
Tubby Wadlow: Gary Lucas.
Willie Mossop: Michael Shelford.
Mrs Hepworth: Susan Twist.
Dr Macfarlane: Christopher Villiers.
Director: David Thacker.
Designer: James Cotterill.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Movement/Associate director: Lesley Hutchison.