by Harold Brighouse
directed by Richard Sanderson
Hobson’s Choice is a classic comedy that is always a pleasure to see. It is so well written that it can never fail to entertain, and entertained we were on the opening night of the Garrick’s penultimate play of its current season.
A first-rate cast brought Brighouse’s words to life and provided the perfect antidote to all the gloom in the news.
It was a slightly unusual presentation in that it was on a black curtained set with the absolute minimum of furniture necessary to dress the scenes. The entrance to the shop was via the flat with each entrance of players ringing a handbell to indicate the opening of the shop door.
Along the front of the stage was an array of boxes upon which were boots and shoes of the period. SR was a small desk on which the cash register was placed, centre stage a small counter for serving customers and CSL a chair and footstool for customers to try on boots. SL showed the practical door to the cellar workrooms below. (This venue does not have a trap door facility). USR were the stairs leading to the upper storey.
The minimum of set dressing meant that the players had space in which to move around freely and it also meant that we were able to concentrate on the players and all the comings and goings of the Hobson domain.
In the eponymous role Alan Hargreaves tried to ensure that the daughters were under his thumb and that he was indeed master of the shop. His drinking companion, Jim Heeler was played by Keith Pounder. Although his is not a large role, he it is who keeps Hobson in check. Alan and Keith created a very believable pair of drinking companions for which, no doubt, the landlord of The Moonrakers was very grateful.
The two younger daughters, Alice and Vicky were played by Charis Deighton and Ellie Humberstone respectively. They were so alike they could really have been sisters, and the interplay between them and their father was excellent, especially when discussing their walking out apparel. The roles were very well cast and extremely well played.
Their two boyfriends, Albert Prosser and Fred Beenstock, and were also well played by Matt Whalley and Aaron George respectively, and were a superb pairing for the daughters. Matt was every inch the lawyer and Aaron was proud to be in trade. Both created extremely believable characters.
Workshop foreman, Tubby Wadlow was played by Giles Williams. This was another small role extremely well portrayed.
The pairing of Hazel Mrozak, as Maggie and Christopher Taylor as Will Mossop was first class. “You’ll do for me, Will Mossop” was the beginning of Will’s metamorphosis from shy, diffident boot boy to master of his own destiny, under the guidance of Maggie’s firm hand. Christopher was a superb Will Mossop and the gradual change was very well portrayed. Hazel was the ideal Maggie for him and the two made a very believable pair. We were definitely on their side.
Will’s “tokened” partner, Ada Figgins was excellent. Millie Green, dressed in clogs and shawl carrying Will’s lunch, fairly brought the character to life. It was a small role but Mille made it memorable by her every action.
Kathleen Riley, as Mrs Hepworth, played another small role but again, a role that was very well portrayed to create a very believable character.
During the interval the younger cast members were on set in Maggie and Will’s Oldfield Road cellar rooms celebrating the couple’s wedding. This led very nicely into the storyline when Maggie would confront her father and arrange events so that Vicky and Alice would be free to wed their respective swains. The scene where Maggie was teaching Will to read and write was quite touching.
Hobson’s disintegration into a chastened bully of a father was very well depicted when he realised that there would be no going back to his old ways.
The final scene in Hobson’s sitting room in Chapel Street was also well played. The arrival of Dr MacFarlane, played by David Pilkington, proved to lead to Hobson’s final capitulation. With his Scottish accent, worthy of Dr. Finlay, David was the very essence of the no nonsense doctor who finally brought Hobson to his senses.
The transformation wrought in Will Mossop was never more evident than in this scene when Hobson’s of Chapel Street was to become Mossop and Hobson.
Hobson’s Choice by the Garrick was superbly presented by an excellent cast with the smaller cameo roles excelling in their respective portrayals.
The costumes and properties for the play were of the period and the set was well lit. Because of the play being performed on a curtained set, the transformation from the cramped cellar in Oldfield Road to the parlour behind Hobson’s shop could only be hinted at but such was the strength of the storyline this was of very little consequence.
I enjoyed the jauntiness of the theme music which suited the play perfectly.
Congratulations to everyone involved in this presentation of this classic comedy.