REVIEW: Hobson’s Choice (Jack Studio Theatre) ★★★

Harold Brighouse’s Manchester School classic comedy about class and gender is given a new spin at the Jack Theatre by director Matthew Townshend. The setting has moved from 1880 to 1958 embracing Rock’n’Roll but remains firmly rooted in working class Salford.

Successful shoe shop owner Henry Hobson (John D Collins) is a pillar of the local community, in particular the local pub, but feels embattled at home under the thumb of his three daughters, the dominant and austere Maggie (Rhiannon Sommers); flighty Vickey (Kelly Aaron); and shy Alice (Greta Harwood). Maggie hatches a plan to get out from under her father by marrying boot maker Will Mossop (Michael Brown) and then skilfully manipulates the rest of them to get what she wants.

There are traces of Lear in the set up, but everything is played for laughs. Pompous Henry is the butt of most of the jokes whilst Maggie gets some great acerbic lines. However, the play definitely shows its age and some of the dialogue feels like it might have come out of an old Coronation Street episode. A faster pace might have been welcome with unnecessary dance interludes slowing the show down. The small space at the Jack is used effectively and the design by Martin Robertson successfully adds to the 1950s setting.

Collins revels in the role of failing patriarch whilst Sommers does well as the new matriarch. Brown excels in his final showdown with his father-in-law, but the rest of the cast are fine without doing anything exceptional. A brief cameo by Natasha Cox as Caribbean Nurse Macfarlane at least injects some much-needed fun.

Overall this is a competent delivery of a play that definitely feels a little old-fashioned, but will no doubt be particularly enjoyed by those with a nostalgic view of the 1950s.

Reviewed by Kris Witherington
Photo: Peter Clark


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