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Q&A: Hobson’s Choice

Published 7 July 2014

With just over a week left to catch the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s acclaimed production of Hobson’s Choice, we decided to quiz fou of the show’s stars on what’s it been like performing al fresco and appearing in Nadia Fall’s swinging 60s take on the classic comedy.

Playing the long-suffering daughters at the centre of the family drama, whose lives take a rebellious turn when their selfish father refuses to help them move on from a life of unpaid labour at his boot shop, Hannah Britland, Nadia Clifford and Jodie McNee were joined by Game Of Thrones’ Karl Davies for our cast Q&A. 

From airplanes to hayfever, read on to discover what challenges the talented company face when theatre comes face to face with the great British outdoors, whom of the four is the biggest rebel in real life and what their own fantasy family business of choice would be. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a mention of shoemaking between them… 

Describe your character in six words.

Britland: Modern, manipulative, fuelled, proud, protective, secretive. 

Clifford: Opinionated, aspirational, forthright, proud, materialistic, vain.

Davies: Naïve, innocent, bootmaker, talented, unrealised potential.

McNee: Determined, loving, pragmatic, passionate, strong.

What is your favourite moment in the play?

Britland: I think the end of Act Three is a very important moment for the three sisters. It’s the first time we come together, unite and agree on something. It’s a poignant moment that reflects a change in all their lives as they now move forward and become women. Also there’s a twist, what more could you want!

Clifford: Dancing the twist – [it] gives me a good workout!

Davies: My favourite moment in the play is when Willie starts to realise he can hold his own in Act Three and starts to wind up Mr Hobson about the accident he has suffered. It’s the start of the huge change we see in the character and I love the playfulness between Maggie and Willie in winding Hobson up.

McNee: When Maggie seduces Willie in her very pragmatic way, and because she is so strong she behaves in the only way that she knows how, totally honest and upfront. 

Hobson’s Choice centres on a clash between the generations. What was the most rebellious thing you ever did growing up?

Britland: That would be telling!

Clifford: I was too nerdy to rebel.

Davies: The most rebellious thing I ever did was deciding to become an actor! I’m from a regular working class background and I was doing well in school, so it was expected that I’d be the first from my family to go to university. You can imagine the surprise when I gave up on that to pursue acting, which until then had only been a hobby.

McNee: I wasn’t a rebel at all!

If you had to set up a business with your own family, which family member would you choose as CEO and what would the company do?

Britland: Anything my mum could run and anything my dad could make. 

Clifford: My mum and it would be a service that provides a cup of tea and a good natter.

Davies: I’d never go into business with my family! But if I was forced to choose then it’d be my mum that was in charge. She’s guided me this far without going wrong so I’d trust her to continue along the right lines. My girlfriend and I have started a business recently called GeekLaChic.co.uk but I take a backseat and let her run things, just as Willie does with Maggie really. Life imitating art!
McNee: My sister. It would be a free service for people who needed counselling and advice.

What challenges do you face performing outside?

Britland: The theatre is huge, so filling that theatre without over acting or pushing is what I’m focusing on.

Clifford: I think the main challenge will be the rain, [there is] no way to prepare. It is in the lap of the gods!

Davies: The challenges of performing in the open air are many. We need to keep the audience focussed on the story we’re telling without allowing them to get distracted by birds, planes, wind in the trees etc. So we need to keep the energy of the performance up and make sure we’re really on the text. And vocally we all need to work that little bit harder to make sure we’re clear and concise.

McNee: The rain and hayfever!

How will you be spending your days during the run?

Britland: If the sun is out I’ll be enjoying that alongside auditioning and swimming. I’m a swimming fanatic but I haven’t been able to do any due to rehearsals so I’ll be back in the pool. 

Clifford: Picnics in the park.

Davies: My days during the run will be spent working with the girlfriend on her website business and trying to get fit again. The last two jobs I’ve done haven’t allowed any spare time so it’s all gone to pot. I’ll be eating well and keeping active!

What has been your most memorable moment of being involved in the show so far?

Britland: I’ve loved learning the Madison with the young cast. People don’t dance like that any more and it felt such a treat to learn it! I’m not a natural dancer so it was a challenge for me but the music always makes me smile. Seeing the model set for the first time too was exciting I felt very lucky to be a part of this company.

Clifford: All of it has been memorable, it’s been a joy. 

Davies: My most memorable moment of the show so far was dealing with the set coming apart during the final scene of the play. Luckily the audience stayed with us and we could recover the scene and make a joke of it but it’s those moments that stick with you. Anything can happen in the moment and that’s all part of the fun.

McNee: Joanna David [who plays Mrs Hepworth] has been amazing and fabulous!

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