18th Feb 2019Hobson's Choice - a play in 4 acts, set in Lancashire around 1880. Hobson's Choice was first performed over a century ago but the themes are as relevant today as they were then - the nature of independence, snobbery and social mobility, patriarchy and the place of women in society.
Hobson is a shrewd man. He uses his daughters as unpaid shop girls and pays his workers, Tubby Wadlow and Willie Mossop, a pittance. We soon learn that the success of the business is due entirely to the talent of his eldest daughter Maggie rather than any business acumen of his own. For Henry Hobson reputation and respectability are everything, appearances are important. To his fellow business associates in Salford he is an upstanding, respected tradesman, but to his daughters he is a bullying, overbearing, controlling parent. Often coming home drunk, in the middle of the day, he is quick to lose his temper when challenged by "uppity women". Faced with rebellion he threatens to marry off the two younger girls to husbands who will keep them in their proper place. Maggie he dismisses as too old to be wed - later admitting to his friend that he needs her in the business. However, when he realises he will have to provide a settlement for each daughter he retracts the suggestion of marriage and the girls are faced with a lifetime of unpaid skivvying.
When a wealthy and influential customer praises Willie Mossop's work and demands that in future all her boots should be made by him, Maggie sees an opportunity to escape from under her father's tyranny. She proposes to the shy bootmaker and railroads him into agreeing to marry despite the fact that he is already tokened to another girl. Maggie is ambitious - not only for herself, but for Willie Mossop, and her sisters. She sees the potential in Willie and refuses to allow other's snobbery to derail her plans. Despite her sisters' disdain for Willie she still engineers their own marriages to the men they love, and out manoeuvres their father at every turn. She is single-minded and determined, practical and hardworking. She is also compassionate and loyal. however she will not be taken advantage of - having found a way out from under her father's influence, she is determined to live life on her terms and in the end she gets exactly the outcome she wants, but unlike her father she does not do so at the cost of others.
Corinne Kilvington is excellent as the pragmatic Maggie, a calm but forceful presence on stage and a perfect foil for the blustering, bullying Hobson (ably played by David Armstrong), and the shy and unassuming Willie (Jordan Carling). Both Kilvington and Carling give convincing and natural portayals of their respective characters while the rest of the cast give stirling support. Under Andrew Barella's direction they have created a well timed, well executed, hugely entertaining play.
Favourite moments: Maggie putting her proposal to Willie Mossop, his consternation and bemused reaction is classic, and Willie's proposal to Hobson, the transformation of the two men is both triumphant and poignant at once.
There are lots of laughs, and lots of telling moments in this play.
Hobson's Choice runs until Sat 23rd February and by gum! you should go see it!