This is a traditionally staged, loyal to style, West End version of Hobson’s Choice. It has every bell and whistle that the producers could throw at it; a big, beautiful set, gorgeous costumes and a star name. It is exactly how the classic play was originally written to be stage. We are in a current, theatrical, climate where classics plays are nearly always transformed or altered. Sometimes it is genius. Sometimes it is fruitless effort to be innovative but ends up being some horrific rehash of a once lovely play. So it is actually quite refreshing to see a classic play done, well, classically.
Martin Shaw plays the title role of Hobson. He is well suited to the role and brings a truthful accuracy to a part that, I can imagine, can easily become a caricature if played by a less competent actor. But for me, dare I say it…he was just a bit ‘safe’. He played his role well, as a grumpy old man, something we have admittedly seen him cast as many a time. He is good at it, but he brought nothing particularly individual or special to the role.
The real star of this show is Naomi Frederick who plays Maggie, Hobson’s oldest daughter. Her energy and vigour lift this show out of ‘nice but nothing special’ to something really quite fantastic. Every time she is present on stage she is quick on cues, reacting and lively, and just generally a really detailed and enjoyable actress to watch. The character in which she created was multi-layered and she was hilarious throughout without anything being too forced. What else can I really say? She utterly stole the show! Bryan Dick as Willie Mossop, is another actor who brings a burst of energy and life to the production. Again, it is thoughtful and detailed work with clear, believable character choices and greatly humorous. Dick and Frederick played off one another well and it was a pairing of great success.
Gabrielle Dempsey and Florence Hall play Hobson’s two younger daughters. They were pleasant, though again ‘safe’ and somehow lacked vigour. They play the characters well enough but lack the spark and detail that Frederick and Dick have. It is a competent and solid cast of actors that Jonathan Church has directed in this really delightful revival of Hobson’s Choice.
I think we forget sometimes that it is not necessarily the duty of good theatre to be ground-breaking and original. I know that myself, for one, initially began attending for enjoyment rather than to gain political or social enlightenment. Therefore I found it really quite beautiful to sit back and simply enjoy being at the theatre. I laughed, I smiled; it was fun! This production has not been over thought and pioneering analysed, it is honest, traditional and highly entertaining.
Hobson’s Choice is playing the Vaudeville Theatre until 10 September. For more information and tickets, see