Hobson's Choice, currently playing at London's Vaudeville Theatre, is quite an underwhelming show. It is an extremely gentle comedy which, if it was a TV series, would almost certainly be played on a Sunday afternoon. There is nothing in the show that makes a huge impact but, equally, there is nothing wrong with the show; it potters along pleasantly, just without the same kick that a lot of West End shows have. The show is celebrating its one-hundredth anniversary, so perhaps it has just dated a little.
Hobson's Choice follows the story of the Hobson family. Henry Horatio Hobson (Martin Shaw) is very much a variant of Jane Austen's Mr Bennet – a bumbling father, who doesn't really know what to do with his daughters. When his eldest daughter, Maggie (Naomi Frederick), marries against his wishes, Hobson begins to find that he is being increasingly manipulated by her until, eventually, she has everything that she set out to get from the very start.
The show is surprisingly engaging; I never felt at all distanced from the characters, and their personalities were distinct enough that the various developing relationships kept the audience engaged with what was going on.
Hobson's Choice does not drag, per se, but it is certainly not a fast-paced show. You might not mind that but, if you want to see something exciting and full-of-life in the West End, you are not likely to find it in this particular production.
The cast of Hobson's Choice are all good; in particular, the relationship between Hobson (Martin Shaw) and his daughter Maggie (Naomi Frederick) is portrayed very convincingly, adding a lot of life to the production. Bryan Dick, who plays the role of Willy Mossop, also brings a lot of energy to the stage, and skilfully portrays a very fun character. Shaw, Frederick and Dick definitely provide the most notable performances but, equally, I could not really fault the performances of the rest of the cast.
The staging is, on the whole, fairly standard. However, there is a lovely moment near the end of the production where the stage rotates to reveal different scenes as Hobson walks through them. Everything about the staging is impressively authentic, and fitted the tone of the play. The lighting and sound are equally true to the play.
There isn't a great deal of scope in a play like this for really impressive visual effects; however, this does mean that, in terms of staging, there are more impressive shows out there.
Would Most People Enjoy It? ★★
Hobson's Choice is the sort of show that will either really click with your sense of humour, of leave you feeling quite flat. It is definitely not a show that everybody would enjoy; however, people who know and like the story would, I am sure, enjoy this production as, again, there is nothing at all wrong with it.
The “Wow” Factor ★
Hobson's Choice isn't and couldn't be the sort of show that has a huge “wow” factor. Again, this may not be something that bothers you, but it is worth being aware that it is a very gentle show so, if you want to be blown away, maybe have a look at seeing something else.
Price of Seats ★★
A good ticket for Hobson's Choice will cost you around £40 (from London Theatre Direct). London Theatre Direct do have an offer on at the moment, which means that you can get better seats for less. However, at their normal rate, the tickets are quite expensive, considering the scale of the production.
Hobson's Choice may leave you feeling a little underwhelmed, but it is a fun evening out and, if you enjoy the sort of comedy that it uses, you will likely enjoy the show. The production is running until the beginning of September 2016.
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