Salford Arts Theatre; Wednesday 13th June, 2018
Chapel Street, Salford: the 1880s. Henry Hobson proudly and obstinately rules over his boot-making business. Hobson is a man with a corporate vision, he has his sights set on the retail zenith that is St Ann’s Square in Manchester. But first he has a particularly tricky sales job to perform – he needs to marry off his three troublesome daughters, so that he can fully concentrate on his manly business affairs.
Written a hundred years ago by Salford playwright Harold Brighouse, Hobson’s Choice has been performed internationally in various different guises, but there can’t be many venues more apt for staging the original version of this play than the Salford Arts Theatre, which lies so close to the heart of the action being portrayed on stage.
Star of the show is Lyndsay Fielding in the role of eldest daughter Maggie – an intelligent and shrewd woman who responds to the unpalatable misogyny around her by competently giving as good as she gets. The tactical battles between daughter and father are an amusing and integral feature of the show, with Scott Berry portraying Henry Hobson as an arrogant man with a shocking sense of entitlement, yet his weaknesses and mistakes induce enough sympathy to make him almost likeable.
Much of the entertainment in this performance rests on the strength of the plot – this is a wonderfully well written piece of theatre that gently sets the scene before embarking on an intriguing story that doesn’t seem to have a particularly obvious ending. The manner in which Maggie schemes against her father coupled with his measured and considered response is both believable and satisfying. Cruelties and injustices are emphatically countered, yet this seems to occur rather satisfyingly within the confines of the family unit, without upsetting the wider gender and social class paradigms of the late nineteenth century.
Like a slowly developing game of chess, Hobson ultimately finds himself backed into a corner by the impressive scheming of his eldest daughter, who clearly comes out on top. Hobson’s Choice is a charming and amusing tale of intra-family squabbling being shrewdly turned into opportunity and freedom, an uplifting story of conflict with an unexpected victor.
|Visual pleasure||A reasonably good effort to create the setting of a old shoe shop, manifested most keenly through the elegant middle class costumery of the day.||3|
|Auditory pleasure||Very minor use of background music to link scenes together, but the local humour delivered in local accents became a very strong factor in making the plot both believable and enjoyable.||3|
|Architecture & Theme||An outstanding piece of writing, this is a story with twists and turns and enough intrigue to keep the audience guessing till the end. Fully held the audience’s attention throughout, always gently inducing the need to know what will happen next.||5|
|Artistic delivery||Excellent acting performances, including the supporting cast, some of whom played multiple roles.||4|
|Overall impact||A well presented evening of entertainment that tells an amusing story of a family bickering amongst the prevailing gender and class norms of the day.||4|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|