Hobson's Choice – reviews of 'sparky' open-air theatre

Jun 24, 2014

Brilliant update of classic comic romance makes for a summery treat in Regent's Park

Johan Persson

What you need to know

An outdoor production of Hobson's Choice has opened at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London. Director Nadia Fall has updated Harold Brighouse's 1915 comic play with a 1960s setting, including some music of the period.

Set in Salford, it tells the story of overbearing, alcoholic shoe shop owner, Hobson, and his three daughters. Maggie, the smartest of them, plots to take control of their lives with a cunning series of marriage and business schemes.

Stars Mark Benton and Jodie McNee. Runs until 12 July.

What the critics like

Nadia Fall's 60s update of Brighouse's great comedy "works a treat", blowing the dust off the work while remaining absolutely true to its generous spirit, says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. The play is both wonderfully funny and deeply touching and there are some brilliant comic touches to this "delightfully sparky" production.

"The comedy is as broad as their Salford accents, and Hobson's Choice makes for a light, summery show," says Holly Williams in The Independent. This production brings some rare moments of genuine tenderness to this usually unsentimental play, delivering a warmly enjoyable evening's entertainment.

Fall succeeds brilliantly in the complex and delicate job of making Brighouse's 1915 north-of-England comedy "both socially and emotionally plausible a century later", says Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times. In a stroke of genius, she has unobtrusively changed the viewpoint from Hobson's to Maggie's without short-changing the comedy.

What they don't like

The sixties update "doesn't seem a total fit", but this sturdy piece can withstand directorial tinkering, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. In the era of miniskirts, aspects of the story seem a bit odd, but for all its anachronisms, it offers a perfectly pleasant night out.

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