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Hobson’s Choice

Published 18 June 2014

What’s it all about?

Henry Hobson is a Victorian boot shop opener in Harold Brighouse’s 1915 comedy. He’s an assertive employer, a terrible father and an obnoxious drunk. In Nadia Fall’s fresh and witty revival, Hobson is all three of these things, but he’s no longer the proprietor of a 19th century boot shop. Instead his existence has been transported to the 1960s where the tale of class and gender feels perfectly at home.

The action centres on Hobson and his three daughters who work unpaid in the boot store. Fed up of the servitude she endures in the hands of her hypocritical father, his eldest offspring Maggie rebels against him, marrying his best boot maker and liberating her sisters from his oppressive grasp.

Who’s in it?

Strictly Come Dancing’s Mark Benton leads the cast. The drunken stagger he’s perfected for the title role certainly wouldn’t have held up in his performances on the BBC dance show, but the actor is both hilariously funny and terrifyingly ferocious as the father whose domineering parenting sends his daughters away.

Even more of the show’s humour comes from the comedy pairing of Jodie McNee and Karl Davies. The epitome of a bossy older sister when interacting with her siblings, McNee’s Maggie is entertainingly assertive and stubborn when forcing the boot shop’s shy and illiterate boot maker Willie Mossop into marriage.

What should I look out for?

Benton in a somewhat dishevelled state of undress, Ben Stones’ revolving set and striking 60s costumes, and some cracking one-liners.

In a nutshell?

The cast shines brighter than Willie Mossop’s most prized creations in this updated revival of Harold Brighouse’s comedy.  

Who was in the press night crowd?

Last night’s audience featured the star of the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s recent production of All My Sons, Amy Nuttall, actress Samantha Spiro, the venue’s Artistic Director Timothy Sheader and, taking a break from preparations for this weekend’s West End LIVE, Councillor Robert Davis.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@TKTSLondon Loved 1st preview of Hobson’s Choice @OpenAirTheatre last night. Brilliantly re-imagined and some cracking performances.

@JoshLittle_ Hobson’s Choice @OpenAirTheatre was a proper northern play. So honest, hilarious and moving. Go and see it, especially you northern folk!

Will I like it?

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is always a treat on a beautiful summer’s night, but this warm-hearted and modernised take on a classic makes for an entertaining evening in the picturesque surroundings of the royal park.


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