“One person described this play as a load of old cobblers,” said Chris Nicholas in his introduction.
He was joking of course. Hobson’s Choice is a favourite of theatre lovers and of Dronfield Players who are reprising Harold Brighouse’s comedy this week after first performing it 28 years ago.
Like a good pair of boots, Hobson’s Choice was built to last with its enduring messages of pride coming before a fall and hard work reaping rewards. And at nearly three hours long, the audience get good value for money.
It’s an awe-inspiring production, not least in the staging which would present a tough task for any company. The players rise to the challenge of transforming the stage from Hobson’s minimalist boot shop to a sparsely furnished rival business in a cellar and finally a lavishly dressed living room.
There’s a number of shining performances among the dimaond dozen cast members treading the boards.
Janet Black in the role of Hobson’s feisty, no-nonsense elder daughter is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown. She gives a flawless performance as the brutally honest, straight-talking Maggie who exacts revenge on her father’s doubts about her suitability for marriage by wedding his key worker and setting up a rival business. Her convincing Lancashire accent enhances Janet’s reputation as a star player.
Playing one of his favourite roles, Henry Horatio Hobson, John Pashley exudes the air of a pompous, respectable businessman and a controlling dad. He characterises the downfall of Henry well, looking increasingly dischevelled as injury and alcoholism takes its toll on this once-proud pillar of the community. In keeping with the demon drink theme, donations towards interval refreshments are going to Alcoholics Anonymous.
While Henry Hobson’s life is in a downward spiral, the only way is up for his right-hand man Willie Mossop. Lured away from the family business, the reluctant bridegroom is schooled in the ways of life, love and enterprise by a determined Maggie. Gary Jarvis brings great humour to his role as the new husband, creeping up the bedroom door on the honeymoon night but being too afraid to cross the threshold. Like main man Henry, his character changes and Willie goes from a man who wouldn’t say boo to a goose to a proud, confident master of the house.
Chrissy Broughton and Louise Grayson return to the stage to play Hobson’s younger daughters Alice and Vickey and both play their parts with conviction. Mirroring their older sibling, they finally get their men with Alice netting lawyer Albert Prosser whose writ is her dad’s undoing (a fine performance by Richard Thompson) and Vickey falling for businessman Fred Beenstock (played by Daniel Roberts) on whose premises her dad trespassed.
In a cameo role, Peter Crown plays Hobson’s faithful employee Timothy Wadlow who is left to mind the shop when his boss can no longer cope.
The production features company stalwarts David Roe, playing Hobson’s drinking companion Jim Heeler, Alf Bunn as Dr McFarlane and Margaret Mace in the role of well-heeled customer Mrs Hepworth. Jeanette Roberts makes her stage debut with the players in the role of Ada Figgins.
Hobson’s Choice, directed by Ginny Priestley, has its final performance at Dronfield Civic Hall tonight (Saturday, April 5) at 7.30pm.