It’s 100 years since its first performance in the UK. Described by 20th century reviewers as “an entirely fresh and fascinating study of everyday life”, the story concerns a shoemaker and this three daughters. If it sounds familiar, you’re not wrong. This is King Lear set in Salford, with a lot of wit thrown in.
Hobson’s daughters work for him for free in his shop. And though they long to be married to their sweethearts, their father is famously stingy and won’t pay for a dowry— not to mention, he’s glad to have employees for nothing. He drinks and strides about the shop, superior to the world. “You’ll none rule me.” But eldest daughter Maggie is smarter than her father guesses. She goes in search of the money herself and sets up shop with a rival bootmaker called Willie Mossop.
You will doubtless recognise Martin Shaw as Judge John Deed and Inspector George Gently but he’s a gifted stage actor. I loved him years ago in A Man for All Seasons as the enigmatic, soft-spoken Thomas More— here, he is loud and crass and very funny. He sometimes goes too big and I missed the vulnerability he channelled as Thomas More. He’s supported by an excellent cast. Naomi Frederick positively shines as eldest Maggie and Florence Hall is a watchable and charismatic Alice.
If you’ve had enough of Shakespeare and want a different kind of classic, don’t miss a traditional and loving revival of an old comedy favourite. The story and dialogue still feel modern and alive. It’s a wonderful story about fathers and their daughters too.
Theatre Royal Bath has had a string of successful shows transfer recently: Mrs Henderson Presents, Bad Jews and The Father this year alone. Make sure to grab Hobson’s Choice tickets from BoxOfficeTheatre before the end of the run in September.