by Harold Brighouse.

Crucible Theatre Norfolk Street S1 1DA To 25 June 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat
Audio-described/BSL Signed 16 June.
Captioned 18 June 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS: 0114 249 6000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 June.

A choice production.
Three things distinguish Christopher Luscombe’s Crucible revival of Harold Brighouse’s 1915 comedy set in Victorian Salford. There’s the staging. Backing the stage with a grey screen, designer Janet Bird avoids any suggestion of a proscenium approach, displaying Hobson’s shoe shop on the diagonal, including the display of footwear in a pair of imaginary windows.

Then there’s Barrie Rutter’s Hobson, a performance that needs taking on the actor’s usual terms – as much Hobson-as-Rutter as Rutter-as-Hobson, fitting dialogue to the actor’s oratorical manner of phrasing and timing. A study in acting as reacting, the eyes often precede the mouth in expression.

From the start this Hobson shows the wear of long lunchtimes at the Moonraker’s, uneasily and over-weightedly making his way down the stairs which Bird has artfully extended to two flights, giving a sense of spacious affluence to match Hobson’s bedecked appearance.

By the last act, Hobson’s ashen, his features fearful- it’s surprising he has the energy to come up with his patronising plan for Maggie and Will’s return. By then, Philip McGinley’s Will has gone from an unconvincing pose of authority to a convincing one – what will another ten, or thirty, years bring?

But the main reason for seeing the play – or seeing it again – is Zoë Waites’ Maggie. Calmly determined in business, she searches for confidence to declare her love, silently working-up courage, at first avoiding speaking to Will with a call to her sisters to remember lunch, then, when finally ready, tapping firmly on the workshop hatch.

Alone on their wedding-night, having sorted everybody else out, she stands behind Will but pulls nervously back from touching him. Luscombe’s revisionary moment comes at this wedding act’s end. Instead of Will’s usual fuss, doing anything to put-off bedtime, he sits blankly, before trying to enter the bedroom, failing, then going to sleep on a couch.

And, instead of Maggie dragging him by the ear to bed, Waites eventually returns, hair down for once, with a candle. Slowly approaching, she gently wakes him and they walk off together, holding hands, in a moment humanising Maggie amid the bustle of Brighouse’s comedy.

Alice Hobson: Cassie Atkinson.
Maggie Hobson: Zoë Waites.
Vicky Hobson: Sally Hodgkiss.
Albert Prosser: Harry Waller.
Henry Horatio Hobson: Barrie Rutter.
Mrs Hepworth: Sue Wallace.
Tubby Wadlow: Rod Arthur.
Will Mossop: Philip McGinley.
Jim Heeler: Lennox Greaves.
Ada Figgins: Emily Aston.
Fred Beenstock: George Banks.
Dr MacFarlane: Robin Cameron.

Director: Christopher Luscombe.
Designer: Janet Bird.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound/Composer: Alex Baranowski.
Dialect coach: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Andrew Ashenden.

2011-06-06 01:59:00

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