Hobson's Choice

by Harold Brighouse

directed by David Bartlett

Performed at

the Nuffield Theatre

on

16th to 21st June, 1980

The Author

Harold Brighouse was born in Eccles, Lancashire on July 26th, 1892. He was one of the most notable of the so called Manchester school of dramatists, a small group of young men, including Brighouse, Stanley Houghton and Alan Monkhouse, whose plays were introduced by Annie Elizabeth Horniman at her repertory theatre in Manchester. He was a master of Lancashire dialepct and a student of provincial humour and reached an early high spot in his career when he combined these talents with superb characterisation in tonight’s play Hobson's Choice.
Brighouse died In London on July 25th 1958.

Hobson's Choice was, surprisingly, first performed in New York on November 2nd, 1915 and subsequently at the Apollo Theatre, London, on June 22nd 1916. Since that time, the wily manoeuverings of Henry Horatio Hobson, in his efforts to keep his eldest daughter Maggie an old maid, have given pleasure to millions both on stage and, of course, on the cinema screen.

I had, in my ignorance, intended to say something about the title of Brighouse's play passing into popular use in the English language. At the last minute, however, the gap in my education was filled and, for the benefit of those who share my shortcoming, may I say that the term 'Hobson's Choice', meaning a choice of one or none, derives from one Hobson, a Cambridge horse hirer who gave his customers no choice but to take the horse nearest the stable door.

The Cast
Alice Hobson Joan Ritchie
Vickey Hobson Julie Latham
Maggie Hobson Ann Archer
Albert Prosser Rob Keighley
Henry Horatio Hobson Ken Spencer
Mrs. Hepworth Sheila Clark
Timothy Wadlow Brian Whitaker
William Mossop Tony Lawther
Jim Heeler Geoff Wharam
Ada Figgins Gill Roberts
Fred Beenstock Adrian Whitaker
Dr. McFarlane John Docherty

 

For the Maskers:  
Directed by David Bartlett
Stage Manager John Carrington
Lighting Design Alan Pinnington
Lighting Operator Martin Randall
Set Design And Painting Ken Spencer
Set Construction Bill Parks, Charles Dosser
Properties And Costumes Mollie Manns, Sheila Clark, Gill Roberts, Belinda Drew, Marion Gimson, Ann Archer, Noela Byrnes
Business Management and Publicity Graham Buchanan, Brian Stansbridge

The review

Those first night nerves take a heavy toll

The place of women in the industrial North at the turn of the century is a major theme in Harold Brighouse's "Hobson's Choice".

But in the Maskers' production (at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton until Saturday) there is little to distinguish it from any father / daughter conflict of today.

Unfortunate patriarch and bootmaker Henry Hobson (Ken Spencer) is faced with the non-choice of having his eldest daughter marry "beneath herself" to Will Mossop his bootband (a genius with the leather) - or see his business fail.

But it seemed that poor old Henry didn't stand much of a chance and the daughters (Ann Archer. Julie Latham and Joan Ritchie) were too unrestrained for ladies of their era and class and much of the flavour of the play was lost. The plot hinges round Maggie's decision to wed Mossop (Tony Lawther) and to go her own way with him, while her sisters make conventional "good" marriages and father sits and stews in his own juice (in this case ale).

Despite the unpleasantness of the Hobson's family set-up it is an amusing play and Mr. Spencer's blusteilng Hobson is particularly enjoyable, espectally as he succeeds in bringing a strong element of pathos to the character in the final scenes.

There was too much gabbling of lines and far too inany slip-ups with cues but the Lancastrian accents were well maintained - to Southern ears at any rate - and with first night nerves out of the way the cast should begin to enjoy their roles a bit more.

A.K.

 
 
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Established 1968

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