Remember The Professionals? Judge John Deed? And more recently Inspector George Gently? Then you know that Martin Shaw is already a veteran actor with a wide range of acting talents. He is Lamda trained and is currently putting his talents to the stage. This week he comes to Milton Keynes Theatre to star in Hobson’s Choice.
Hobson’s Choice is a play by Harold Brighouse first performed 100 years ago so this is the perfect time to see it. The play is set in Salford in 1880 and tells the story of Henry Horatio Hobson, a middle-class self-made man with very Victorian values. Henry has three daughters who work for him in his shop and he is known as a bit of a tyrant to his daughters. He doesn’t pay them any wages and spends a lot of his time drinking at the local pub.
Maggie, his eldest daughter is 30 years old and considered too old to marry. However, being the business brain of the shop she makes up her mind to marry Will Mossop, the bootmaker. When she tells her father, he is furious and threatens to beat Will with his belt. This pushes Will to go with Maggie and so Hobson loses his eldest daughter and his bootmaker in one go. Maggie is not a fool as all Hobson’s rich clients follow Will for his excellent bookmaking.
A month later and the wedding day, Maggie can see that the shop isn’t being run as well by her two sisters but insists they both come to her wedding. Maggie also devises a way to marry off both her sisters to their own loves. Henry Horatio Hobson is played by Martin Shaw and he was absolutely outstanding in the role. The audience cheered him each time he came on stage. His northern accent is excellent and he plays a drunken and argumentative father well. But we all love him so even when he is a tyrant it is hard to dislike him or the character.
Maggie Hobson, the eldest daughter, is played by Naomi Frederick and she gives a fantastic performance. She has a lot of funny lines and her comic timing is perfect, especially in her scenes with her on stage fiancé, Will. Will Mossop is played by Bryan Dick and he is perfect as the poor bootmaker who is at first rather afraid of Maggie but grows in character and strength throughout the story. His portrayal of Will had great definition and was a well-rounded performance. Alice, the middle daughter, is a sweet girl who isn’t as good at doing the books as Maggie was. She is played by Florence Hall and has a real charismatic aura about her. Your eye is drawn to her on stage even when she isn’t speaking. Hobsons youngest daughter Vickey, is played by Gabrielle Dempsey and gives a strong performance of the slightly spoilt baby of the family who thinks she can get round her father.
The cast execute the script with perfection and the sets are of a high quality and cleverly used throughout the show. If you have never seen a play before, or if you enjoy a well-acted play – this is the perfect show. Its gentle comic timing and character definition makes for an excellent evening’s entertainment. Hobson’s Choice is really no choice at all but you should have no other choice - choose this play!
This review was originally written for the About Milton Keynes website.