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New Era - Hobson's Choice

12th to 21st June 2008.

Here is the NWN review.

Choice was a matter of principals

Henry Horatio Hobson is an opinionated, authoritarian paterfamilias, left to run his shoe shop with his three daughters after his wife had died. He is “British, middle class, and proud of it” and talks about “the majesty of trade”. Annoyed with the ‘uppishness’ of two of his daughters, he determines to choose husbands for them. The third daughter, Maggie, he declares to be on the shelf at 30 and unmarriable, as he knows that Maggie is key to the successful running of the shop.

Maggie has other ideas, and with a firm determination she chooses their best bootmaker, Will Mossop, to be her reluctant husband. After setting up a rival business, the Mossops are in a position to get the better of Hobson.

Like father, like daughter. Hobson and Maggie are both strong characters, used to getting their own way. Nigel Winter’s Hobson had the right amount of bluster and authority, with a nice leaning to pathos as he ends up a broken man. Jackie Fripp was magnificent as Maggie. She clearly wasn’t someone to mess with, and although you wouldn’t want to marry her, she didn’t come across as a nasty person; indeed, she was a beacon of integrity, unlike her scheming father.

Mike Moors gave a strong performance as Will Mossop, the diffident, uneducated bootmaker whose confidence and education are enhanced by Maggie.

These three principal characters were the foundation for an outstanding production, helped by the good supporting characters. Roger Follows as Jim Heeler was particularly good, and there were nice performances from Jane Robinson and Nicola Sowden as the other two Hobson daughters. Neil Dewdney and David Kennedy as their suitors had good opportunities for comedy, and other parts were played by Marie Jacobs and Nuala Furr, along with New Era stalwarts Tim Oldham and David Zeke (with a rather dubious Scottish accent).

The set, with three different scenes, was simple but effective and the women’s costumes were sumptuous; the men’s rather less so.

A well-paced and entertaining production from director Pam Hillier-Brook.