Transposed from the early 20th century to 1958, Harold Brighouse’s Hobson’s Choice finds a new lease of life with this reimagining. Set in Salford, the play’s themes about economic independence for women has a resonance in postwar Britain, as women breakaway from the ‘domestic expectations’ placed upon them to instead enter the workforce and have careers.
Henry Horatio Hobson (John D Collins) owns a show store, which caters for quite a wide-range of clientele. His business is so successful that he can afford to spend swathes of the day in the pub on ‘business matters’. However, what Hobson doesn’t appreciate is the reason why his business runs like clockwork is because of two talented individials – William Mossop (Michael Brown) his master bootmaker and his eldest daughter Maggie (Rhiannon Sommers) whose running of the shop is a model of efficiency.
Taking umbrage at his daughters’ ‘disrespectful’ attitude towards his comings-and-goings, Hobson initial gut reaction to is marry off Alice (Greta Harwood) and Vickey (Kelly Aaron) so he won’t have to deal with them anymore. But as (in his estimation) Maggie at the age of 30 is ‘over the hill’, he would keep her around to run the shop. Of course once he realises what he would have to contribute towards weddings for each of his daughters, Hobson backtracks on his original statement and decides nobody will be allowed to marry. But Maggie has a cunning plan – one that will free them from the yoke of their father and set them on the path of self-determination…
As you would expect as a veteran from ‘Allo ‘Allo, Collins is in fine form as the blustering Hobson, whose rigid views and undiplomatic demeanour rubs everyone the wrong way. Without a doubt though, the real star of the show is Sommers as the indomitable Maggie – pragmatic to the core, but having aspirations in abundance. Maggie’s ‘relationship’ with Will is the ’emotional’ heart of the play in the sense that it is not built on ‘hearts and flowers’ and being tender, but on mutual respect and wanting the best for each other.
Harwood and Aaron are in fine fettle as Maggie’s younger, more self-centred sisters, while Connor McCreedy, Matthew Townshend and Sian Rees provide ample support as Albert Prosser, Timothy Wadlow and Ada Figgins respectively. One also shouldn’t forget Natasha Cox, who as well as playing Nurse Macfarlane, provides the choreography for the musical interludes utilising music by JS and the Lockerbillies that’s inspired by the era.
With its blend of comedy, music and social commentary about class and the glass ceilings of society, Hobson’s Choice is an entertaining show with substance.
© Michael Davis 2018
Hobson’s Choice runs at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre until 15th September.