Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hobson's Choice - People's Theatre - Review

Hobson's Choice
People's Theatre
30th May 2017

Although written a hundred years ago, this period comedy has a very modern feel. The stage is set with the inside of Hobson's Bootmaker's - a counter, laden with shoes and boots, a desk with a ledger (the shop's books), framed with a mosaic of leather patches emblazoned with images of fine boots. 

Hobson (Steve Robertson) is proudly middle class, owner of a successful and respected boot making business. The success of this is down to the skill of his workers and the astuteness of his eldest daughter, maggie (Alison Carr). He has built up his fortune by paying low wages to the craftsmen he employs, and no wages to his daughters who run the shop and his home. 

One evening he takes umbrage at his daughters' attempts to manage him. Incensed by their "uppishness" he launches into a tirade over the inappropriateness of their behaviour, their dress, which he perceives calls into question his own respectability and reputation. He decides that they should be married off, to give another the man the inconvenience of keeping them - except Maggie who he considers too old (and too useful) for marriage. However, when he realises that it will cost him money to marry off his two younger daughters he quickly decides that they will stay at home with him after all, thus thwarting their hopes of escaping to make lives of their own. 

When a wealthy customer, Mrs Hepworth (Barbara Johnson), singles out one the workers, Willie Mossop (Ian Willis), and demands that all her boots be made by him in the future, Maggie sees an opportunity to escape the dead end existence of living with her domineering and increasingly drunken father. She proposes marriage to Willie and sets about managing their escape.

When her father learns of her plan to marry Willie, a match he considers to be wholly inappropriate, he threatens to beat Willie for daring to court his daughter. Maggie and Willie leave and set up their own business with help from Mrs Hepworth. 

As Hobson's pride and drinking get the better of him, he loses all three of his daughters and his business begins to decline until he is on the brink of bankruptcy. 

Photographs by Paula Smart
This is a cautionary tail told with great humour. Harold Brighouse's characters are well observed and cleverly drawn - from the blustering Hobson, with his preoccupation with image and reputation to the astute and clever Maggie who manages to steer everyone to a happy outcome eventually. 

This is a perfect choice for the People's Theatre, the team have once again produced a well acted, creatively staged production.  A classic play given classic treatment, has the audience laughing out loud at the antics of Hobson, the indomitable cleverness of Maggie and the sufferance of Willie. 

Hobson's Choice plays until Saturday. Your only difficulty will be choosing which night to go see it. 

Denise Sparrowhawk

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