THEATRE REVIEW Hobson's Choice
Maggie Hobson, who works in her father's shoe shop, comes to the conclusion that, if she is not to remain single for the rest of her• life, she will have to marry her father's unassuming master bootmaker. Willie Mossop is not only her best choice — he's her only choice. With her brains and his hands she reckons they will make an unbeatable commercial team. Maggie, who is used to ordering people about and getting her own way, proposes — in one of theatre's great comic love scenes — and Mossop finds himself engaged to be married, his protests totally ignored.
Harold Brighouse's comedy is the most enduring and best loved of all the plays of the Manchester school of sentimental realism. Today, it is rightly considered a modem classic and regularly revived. But back at the beginning of the 20th century all the London theatre managers turned it down because they thought that audiences wouldn't want to see a regional play with regional accents. It wasn't staged in the West End until 1916 and then only after it had been a big success in New York. What Jonathan Church's production may lack in Salford grit and pathos it makes up for in charm, and it's nicely acted by Carolyn Backhouse and Dylan Charles. The father, a mean windbag and bully, is both a comic and a tragic figure. John Savident, physically so right for the part, full of self-pity and railing ineffectually at his daughters, looks as if he has stepped out of a cartoon in Punch. Hobson 's Choice — likeable and generous, warm and homely — is a perfect family show.
This award-winning and provocative .American musical relates a notorious miscarriage of justice in 1913 when an innocent man was dragged out of prison by a mob affiliated to the Ku Klux Klan and lynched in Atlanta, Georgia, for murdering a 13-year-old factory girl. The accused had two great disadvantages: he was a Jew and he came from the north. AntiSemitism was rife and memories of the civil war still rankled.
Alfred Uhry's storyline is totally gripping. Jason Robert Brown's score, which mixes hymns, gospel and ragtime, is easy to listen to. The production is dramatically choreographed by the director, Rob Ashford. There are fine performances, especially from Bertie Carve] as the accused, Lara Pulver as his wife and Shaun Escoffery, in excellent voice, as his accuser.
C S Lewis, Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and author of The Chronicles of Narnia, marries American poetess and divorcee Joy Gresham. But. at the age of 45, Gresham dies unexpectedly of cancer, leaving a 10-year-old son. William Nicholson's play is about faith and mortality and it opens with a question: if God loves us, why does he allow us to suffer so much? Lewis's mother had died when he was nine. Pain, he argues, is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world. The world that seems to us to be substantial is no more than shadowlands. The real life has yet to begin. Charles Dance, following in the footsteps of Nigel Hawthorne on stage and Anthony Hopkins on film, gives a sensitive account of a long-time bachelor who fears emotional commitment. The divorcee (Janie Dee) has a nice line in AmericanJewish acerbic wit. The production will have a special appeal for all those theatregoers who have been wondering if they will ever again be able to see a modern drama in which there is not a single expletive.
Robert Tanitch's lavishly illustrated London Stage in the 20th Century is published by Haus Publishing this month