2016-09-06 Hobson’s Choice, London

Back to 2016

2016/09/06 night – Hobson’s Choice, Vaudeville Theatre, London




It was nice to be back at the Vaudeville to see Hobson’s Choice and noticing that there’s another play regarding shoes, Kinky Boots, at the near Adelphi Theatre. I was close to take a picture of the two walls, because it was funny.

This is a revival of an US play by Harold Brighthouse (1915), which was made in several versions, including a movie and a ballet. I didn’t know that it’s also an expression the British use to say something like “take it or leave it”.

This one at the Vaudeville was played in a traditional way and took place at the end of the 19th Century, a time when things were starting to change for women and workmen, with the first battles for their rights.

The play begins with three sisters, dressed in severe dark clothes, who work in the boot shop owned by their father, Henry Hobson, a despotic man who doesn’t want them to become emancipated and marry the men they love. He also looks drunk when he appears and he’s not very friendly with anyone, he seems to have just an old friend in Jim Heeler. In his disappointment against his own daughters, Hobson reminds me of King Lear’s same resentment, his monologues are full of bitterness, but at the same way, his daughters have no intention to do what he wants. Times are changing and Hobson has to face it and the fact that he’s losing clients, together with his daughters’ obedience.

The eldest daughter, Maggie, has a plan: to marry the talented but shy boot-maker Willie Mossop – who works for her father and appears from time to time from a trapdoor in the floor together with his colleague Tubby, both looking like they were trapped in the shop – and to start a new business with him. Mossop can’t do nothing against the determination of the woman and at the end marries her, even if he has told her he’s not in love with her. There’s the most funny scene that takes place during the wedding night, when Willie tries to find all the excuses not to go in bed with her, even pretending to fall asleep, but he doesn’t succeed, as the woman wakes him up pulling him by the ear and drives him to the bedroom.

At the end, Hobson, covered in dust, reaches his daughters in Willie’s house, and reluctantly agrees to go into partnership with Mossop who, under the guide of Maggie, has become an educated, self-confident business man.

I don’t know if this play could be still actual, but it’s a relief to see how much society has changed since then.

The cast was very nice, starting from the two glories of TV Martin Shaw as a grumpy scruffy Hobson, so different from more sober roles he played, like the Inspector George Gently, and Christopher Timothy as Mr. Heeler, even if in a short role, who I remember being the protagonist of the series “All Creatures Great And Small”.

Florence Hall and Gabrielle Dempsey made a lovely performance respectively as Alice and Vicky Hobson, but Naomi Frederick as Maggie Hobson was a real force of nature, I loved her performance! Being taller than Willie, made the scenes with him even more funny, playing a very strong woman who doesn’t accept a No in return.

David Shaw-Parker as Timothy Wadlow (Tubby) and Emily Johnstone as Ada Figgins were two nice supporters, as well as the two fiancés Albert Prosser played by Joe Bannister and Freddie Beenstock played by Ryan Saunders.

But the most comical moments came from the shy and trembling Willie Mossop played by Bryan Dick, who was perfect for the role, both for his appearance and his acting skills. He played well the naive working man who’s driven by events he can’t control.


Some notes about the set design and costumes.

The set was detailed, showing two interiors: the bootshop and Willie Mossop’s house, with windows, a few pieces of furniture, stairs and a lot of shelves with boxes along the walls. I particularly loved the green table cloth in Art Nouveau style inside Willie’s flat.

The costumes were in 19th Century style. The sisters wear dark clothes and grey aprons while inside the shop, I suppose their position forced them to wear such dresses, but they were more colored and elegant together with their smart fiancés, after Maggie and Willie’s wedding. I found funny the bulge on the back of Maggie’s dress, typical of the time.

Hobson wear a grey suit and a hat and got a big belly under the vest. Tubby and Willie were dressed in poor worker clothes, but Willie appeared in a different, more elegant suit at his wedding.


Some photos I took myself:

It’s the third time I went to see Bryan on stage and he never disappoints me! It was also a real pleasure to meet him at the stage door after the show: he was very lovely and signed my programme!

Now, if you want to read further….


Cast and Creatives and their Twitter accounts:

Martin Shaw as Henry Hobson
Christopher Timothy as Jim Heeler
Bryan Dick as Willie Mossop @bryandick
Naomi Frederick as Maggie Hobson
Ken Drury as Dr McFarlane
Joanna McCallum as Mrs Hepworth
Gabrielle Dempsey as Vicky Hobson @g_dempsey
Florence Hall as Alice Hobson
Joe Bannister as Albert Prosser
David Shaw-Parker as Timothy Wadlow (Tubby)
Emily Johnstone as Ada Figgins (Understudy Mrs Hepworth, Vicky Hobson)

Ryan Saunders as Freddie Beenstock (Understudy Willie Mossop)
Lauren Garnham (Understudy Maggie Hobson, Alice Hobson, Ada Figgins)
Stephen Chapman (Understudy Tubby Wadlow, Jim Heeler, Dr McFarlane)
Harrison Rose (Understudy Albert Prosser, Freddie Beenstock)
John Vernon (Understudy Henry Hobson)

Directed by Jonathan Church
Written by Harold Brighthouse (1915)
Design by Simon Higlett
Lighting by Tim Mitchell
Sound by Mike Walker
Music by Matthew Scott

Vaudeville Theatre @VaudevilleTh

Nimax Theatres @NimaxTheatres


Vaudeville Theatre vaudeville-theatre.co.uk/index.html

Nimax Theatres nimaxtheatres.com/vaudeville-theatre/hobsons_choice (now gone)

Cast and Creatives list london-theatreland.co.uk/theatres/vaudeville-theatre/hobsons-choice-cast-creative.php

and whatsonstage.com/milton-keynes-theatre/shows/hobsons-choice_84632/cast/