Hobson's Choice

Original London West End Production - Norman McKinnel / C V France - 1916

London Revival - David Bird - 1952

1st London West End Revival (NT) - Michael Redgrave / Colin Blakely - 1964

London Revival - Peter Bayliss - 1973

London Revival - Arthur Lowe - 1981

2nd London West End Revival - Anthony Quayle - 1982

3rd London West End Revival - Leo McKern - 1995

London Revival - Paul Bhattacharjee - 2003

London Revival - Mark Benton - 2014

4th London West End Revival - Martin Shaw - 2016


Comedy by Harold Brighouse. From the cobbles of Lancashire, bombastic shoe shop owner Henry Horatio Hobson relies on his unmarried daughters to run his shop while he goes out drinking. However, one of his daughters, Maggie, defies him by marrying his most talented worker - the timid and downtrodden Willie. Through Maggie's determination Willie is able to develop his potential and together they set up a rival establishment... and orchestrate Hobson's fall from grace.


Original London West End Production - Norman McKinnel / C V France - 1916

Opened 22 June 1916, Closed 18 November 1916 at the Apollo Theatre
Transferred 20 November 1916, 6 January 1917 at the Prince of Wales Theatre

The orginal cast featured Norman McKinnel as 'Henry Horatio Hobson', Edyth Goodall as 'Maggie Hobson' and Joe Nightingale as 'William Mossop'. Directed by Norman McKinnel. For the transfer C V France took over as 'Henry Haratio Hobson'.


London Revival - David Bird - 1952

Opened 4 June 1952, Closed 6 July 1952 at the Arts Theatre Club

The cast featured David Bird as 'Henry Horatio Hobson', Pauline Jameson as 'Maggie Hobson' and Donald Pleasence as 'William Mossop'. Directed by Alec Clunes with designs by Ronald Brown.


1st London West End Revival (NT) - Michael Redgrave / Colin Blakely - 1964

Opened Tuesday 7 January 1964, Closed 1 August 1964 (in repertory) at the NT Old Vic
Returned 9 March 1965, Closed 10 July 1965 (in repertory) at the NT Old Vic

Presented by the National Theatre. The original cast featured Michael Redgrave as 'Henry Horatio Hobson' and Joan Plowright as 'Maggie Hobson' and Frank Finlay as 'William Mossop'. Directed by John Dexter with designs by Motley (Margaret Harris, Sophie Harris, Elizabeth Montgomery Wilmot).

The cast for the return season featured Colin Blakely as 'Henry Horation Hobson', Billie Whitelaw as 'Maggie Hobson' and Frank Finlay as 'William Mossop'. Re-directed by Piers Haggard.


London Revival - Peter Bayliss - 1973

Previewed 24 January 1973, Opened 29 January 1973, Closed 17 March 1973 (in repertory) at the Young Vic

The cast featured Peter Bayliss as 'Henry Horatio Hobson', Anne Stallybrass as 'Maggie Hobson' and Andrew Robinson as 'William Mossop'. Directed by Bernard Goss with designs by Alan Barlow.


London Revival - Arthur Lowe - 1981

Previewed 29 January 1981, Opened 2 February 1981, Closed 7 March 1981 at the Lyric Hammersmith

The cast featured Arthur Lowe as 'Henry Horatio Hobson', Julia McKenzie as 'Maggie Hobson' and Ronald Pickup as 'William Mossop'. Directed by David Giles with designs by Kenneth Mellor.


2nd London West End Revival - Anthony Quayle - 1982

Previewed 9 February 1982, Opened 11 February 1982, Closed 21 July 1982 (in repertory) at the Haymarket Theatre

Presented as part of a season of plays by Triumph Productions. The cast featured Anthony Quayle as 'Henry Horatio Hobson', Penelope Keith as 'Maggie Hobson' and Trevor Peacock as 'William Mossop'. Directed by Ronald Eyre with designs by Kenneth Mellor.


3rd London West End Revival - Leo McKern - 1995

Previewed 11 October 1995, Opened 16 October 1995, Closed Saturday 20 January 1996 at the Lyric Theatre

A transfer from the Chichester Festival Theatre. The cast featured Leo McKern as 'Henry Horatio Hobson', Nicola McAuliffe as 'Maggie Hobson' and Graham Turner as 'William Mossop'. Directed by Frank Hauser with designs by Saul Radomsky and lighting by Nigel Hollowell Howard.


London Revival - Paul Bhattacharjee - 2003

Previewed 26 June 2003, Opened 2 July 2003, Closed 16 August 2003 at the Young Vic

Adapted by Tanika Gupta with the setting moved to an Indian-run tailors shop in Salford's Asian community in the present day. The cast featured Paul Bhattacharjee as 'Hari Hobson', Yasmin Wilde as 'Durga Hobson' and Richard Sumitro as 'Ali Mossop'. Directed by Richard Jones with designs by Ultz and lighting by Matthew Richardson.


London Revival - Mark Benton - 2014

Previewed 12 June 2014, Opened 17 June 2014, Closed 12 July 2014 at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

An updated version set in the 1960s presented for a strictly limited season of just 34 performances. The cast featured Mark Benton as 'Henry Horatio Hobson', Jodie McNee aa 'Maggie Hobson' and Karl Davies as 'William Mossop'. Directed by Nadia Fall with movement by Jack Murphy, designs by Ben Stones and lighting by Oliver Fenwick.

Open Air Theatre - The weather Every theatre performance is unique, but this is especially the case here at the Open Air Theatre where both stage and auditorium seating are uncovered. It is therefore best to come prepared for all types of weather. It is particularly important to bring a jumper for the end of evening performances. Bad weather may mean that performances have to be stopped and be re-started but, on average, 94% of performances are completed each season. In the event that the performance is abandoned due to bad weather, no refunds are given, but you can exchange your tickets for a future performance. Please speak to a member of staff on the evening.

Nadia Fall's London directing credits include Alan Bennett's Hymn, presented as part of a double-bill under the heading Untold Stories, at the Duchess Theatre in 2013.

When this production opened Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "the director Nadia Fall has updated it to the early Sixties, just as they were starting to swing, and it works a treat, blowing the dust off the work while remaining absolutely true to its generous spirit," adding that it was a "delightfully sparky production." Holly Williams in the Independent commented that it "makes for a light, summery show. Nadia Fall exhibits a firm control over the material, delivering a warmly enjoyable evening's entertainment." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard wrote that "Hobson's Choice is the sort of play that tends to be described as an old warhorse - with the adjective 'creaky' sometimes added disparagingly. But Nadia Fall's bright, brisk production makes Harold Brighouse's 1915 play feel wonderfully fresh... [in] this funny, poignant revival." Michael Billington in the Guardian thought that "it's a sturdy old piece that can withstand directorial tinkering and here is nicely acted... Nadia Fall's update, for all its anachronisms, offers a perfectly pleasant night out." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times saifd that "Nadia Fall succeeds brilliantly in the complex and delicate job of making Harold Brighouse's 1915 north-of-England comedy both socially and emotionally plausible a century later." Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighted how "Mark Benton conveys genuine despair beneath he blustering chauvinism in Hobson's final scenes and while the resolution is upbeat it is hard won.. The most effectie addition to this production, apart from the fab costumes, is songs including Chubby Checker's The Twist and Gerry And The Pacemakers' How Do You Do It? which receives a moving full cast reprise at the end."

"The director Nadia Fall has given it a new new Sixties setting, and it kicks off with Mark Benton's inebriated shoe shop owner, Henry Hobson, mouthing the words to Frank Sinatra's That's Life before finally vomiting. Ben Stones's revolving set is a delight... Mark Benton invests the boorish old misogynist Hobson with the necessary redeeming feature of charm... Jodie McNee, meanwhile, is a delight as his 'uppity' daughter, Maggie, who is intent on marrying Karl Davies's insipid rival cobbler, Willie Mossop. There are some assured comedy turns along the way from Richard Syms - an actor strangely reminiscent of the late Michael Ripper - in the role of Hobson's employee Tubby. Robin Bowerman is on good form, too, as Hobson's long-suffering physician." The Sunday Telegraph

"The play concerns the downfall of Henry Horatio Hobson, a widowed bootmaker with three unmarried daughters, whom Mark Benton plays splendidly as a cross between Falstaff and King Lear, and the ascent of his former apprentice, Willie Mossop, whose growing assurance is delightfully charted by Karl Davies. Nadia Fall's production, on Ben Stone's versatile set, is strongly cast with even fleeting appearances from Joanna David as a provincial dowager and Robin Bowerman as a no-nonsense doctor making their mark. Some ill-advised musical interludes aside, the evening is a joy." The Express on Sunday

"In spite of pushing Harold Brighouse's 1916 shoe-shop classic about a tyrannical Northern cobbler into the Swinging Sixties, Nadia Fall's revival doesn't make a nifty winkle-picker out of a clodhopper. Indeed, this well-worn comedy about women finding their independence seems irrevocably embedded in its time and no amount of twisting and shouting can put a spring in its leaden step... Karl Davies eloquently charts Willie's blossoming from mumbling, bumbling backroom boy to focused, self-confident front-man. Alas, Mark Benton's Hobson doesn't develop at all. He feels no guilt or remorse about his vile behaviour, so there's nothing Lear-like or pitiable about him when down and almost out: he merely continues to throw his considerable weight about. Mildly entertaining sitcom rather than real, felt drama, it barely leaves a bootprint." The Mail on Sunday

Hobson's Choice in London at the Open Air Theatre Regent's Park previewed from 12 June 2014, opened on 17 June 2014 and closed on 12 July 2014.


4th London West End Revival - Martin Shaw - 2016

Previewed 8 June 2016, Opened 14 June 2016, Closed 10 September 2016 at the Vaudeville Theatre

The cast featured Martin Shaw as 'Henry Horation Hobson', Naomi Frederick as 'Maggie Hobson' and Bryan Dick as 'Willie Mossop' with Christopher Timothy as 'Jim Heeler', Gabrielle Dempsey as 'Vickey Hobson' and Florence Hall 'Alice Hobson' along with Joe Bannister, Ken Drury, Emily Johnstone, Joanna McCallum, Ryan Saunders and David Shaw-Parker. Directed by Jonathan Church with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Tim Mitchell, music by Matthew Scott and sound by Mike Walker.

Martin Shaw's recent West End stage credits include Christopher Haydon's revival of Reginald Rose's play Twelve Angry Men at the Garrick Theatre in 2013; Rufus Norris' revival of Clifford Odets' play The Country Girl at the Apollo Theatre in 2010; and Michael Rudman's revival of Robert Bolt's play A Man For All Seasons at the Haymarket Theatre in 2005. Christopher Timothy's London credits include Jamie Lloyd's revival of Harold Pinter's play The Hothouse at the Trafalgar Studios in 2013 and David Gilmore's staging of the David Essex musical All the Fun of the Fair at the Garrick Theatre in 2010.

When this production opened here at the Vaudeville Theatre in London in June 2016, Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard highlighted that "director Jonathan Church makes a virtue of its old-fashioned wholesomeness. This is a gently enjoyable interpretation - its preference for cosiness rather than grittiness apparent in Simon Higlett's richly detailed period design." Sarah Hemming in The Financial Times said "Jonathan Church's handsome, enjoyable production keeps it lovingly in its period - Simon Higlett's meticulous design bristles with details - and demonstrates a pleasing relish for the play's humour... The staging finds its backbone, however, in two excellent performances from Naomi Frederick as Maggie and Bryan Dick as Willie... The sudden moment of tenderness between them at the end is genuinely touching." Claire Allfree in The Daily Telegraph thought that "this Theatre Royal Bath transfer, starring Martin Shaw, makes a lavish virtue of its 1880s Salford setting. Martin Shaw is on fine form as Hobson... Brighouse's play may be creaking, but Church proves it's good for a few more outings yet." Dominic Maxwell in The Times commented that, "playing Henry Hobson, the bibulous bully of the title, Martin Shaw gives a performance that is at once barnstorming and, as the production arrives in the West End after a tour, too often suspended in its own dyspeptic bubble... Shame, because though Brighouse's play creaks in places, Jonathan Church's handsomely mounted production has a lot going for it. Simon Higlett's design is glorious... And it's a fine ensemble."

When this production originally opened at the Theatre Royal in Bath in February 2016, Ann Treneman in The Times wrote that "Jonathan Church has a reputation for giving audiences what they want and this production is no exception. This is classic early Sunday night TV fare: old-fashioned, extremely well-done, funny and feisty, with lots of bustles to boot. The casting is excellent... the high production values and tip-top performances lift it more than a notch." Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph said "the big box-office draw for this delightful centenary touring revival of Harold Brighouse's evergreen comedy about a feckless Salford cobbler and his three bossyboots daughters - a larky Lancashire riposte to King Lear, if you will - is Martin Shaw. The actor has been cast against type as sottish patriarch Henry Hobson... this is a performance bravely lacking in vanity... Time can be cruel to us all, but Brighouse's brick-solid classic is still laughing off the ravages of age." Lyn Gardner in The Guardian highlighted that "inevitably it creaks, but Hobson's Choice was way ahead of its time, and Jonathan Church's revival, designed in loving detail by Simon Higlett, often makes it look pretty sprightly while acknowledging its handsome period features." Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail explained that, "written in the Suffragette era, this play is all for women's rights, but at the same time it doesn't hate men. It feels dated, yes... Yet there is plenty to enjoy... With its numerous cameos, its class nuances and Victorian bustles, Hobson's Choice used to be a great favourite with amateur dramatic societies. Those same aspects, together with its brisk, uncomplicated narrative, earned it plenty of smiles and quite a few laughs from the Theatre Royal audience in Bath."

"Jonathan Church's loving revival of Harold Brighouse's Hobson's Choice... Church meticulously recreates the mercantile world of late Victorian England. His production contains bravura performances from Naomi Frederick and Bryan Dick as the unromantic newlyweds and a brave one from Martin Shaw, who plays Hobson himself not as the usual domestic tyrant but as an inveterate drunk." The Sunday Express

"Harold Brighouse's venerable comedy, set in Victorian Salford, pits Maggie (Naomi Frederick), Hobson's eldest, against her dad. Frederick, straight and stern as a heron, commands this production... Jonathan Church's brisk revival is handsome enough (shelving connoisseurs will enjoy the set), but goes at a relentless chunter, which only rams home what a charmless crew this is. Shaw, cast against type, makes Hobson a blustering bore, full of stout and self-pity." The Sunday Times

"A poor revival of Harold Brighouse's 1915 play about an overbearing, boorish boot-seller in Salford who bullies his three daughters and his cobbling staff - and gets his comeuppance - can be a bit of a clodhopper. But director Jonathan Church makes this feel as well crafted and durable as a pair of, er, Church's classic brogues. Martin Shaw slips perfectly into the part of the portly, florid, tight-fisted Horatio Hobson, who has pulled himself up by his hand-made boot straps into middle-class respectability... Shaw's roaring, spoilt and self-pitying Hobson is a Lancastrian King Lear... Like this play, Simon Higlett's splendid set is an old-fashioned pleasure." The Mail on Sunday

"The permanently sozzled and always curmudgeonly Hobson is totally reliant yet dismissive and bullying of his three daughters. When his eldest daughter Maggie rebels by marrying shoemaker Willie Mossop, she gives Hobson a boot up the backside. Shaw as Hobson is bold and gloriously rambunctious but there were subtle, sophisticated and mesmerising performances from Naomi Frederick as Maggie and Bryan Dick as Willie, who sparkle at every turn." The Sunday Mirror

Hobson's Choice in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 8 June 2016, opened on 14 June 2016 and closed on 10 September 2016.