Review: Hobson’s Choice, @OAThobsons Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

It was a brilliant move by the director, Nadia Fall, to bring this comedy forward from the 1880s to the 1960s. Philip Larkin famously wrote, “Sexual intercourse began. In nineteen sixty-three. (which was rather late for me). Between the end of the Chatterley ban. And the Beatles’ first LP,” and “Swinging London” wasn’t celebrated by Time magazine until 1966. Even by then, it was only really London that swung and this play is set in Salford, so it made sense to see a daughter still fighting for independence against her domineering father, just like Bill Naughton’s Spring and Port Wine which was first staged in 1965.

The excellent direction also ensured there was not a weak performance in the production. Mark Benton played the father, balancing comedy and bathos superbly, but the standout performance for me was Jodie McNee, the oldest daughter who decides to take control of her life. Karl Davies was also superb as weak Willie Mossop, the man she decides to marry, as she uses her strength, not to domineer him as it might appear at first, but to build him up into the successful shoe salesman her father has now ceased to be. The music is not over-used cleverly starting with Sinatra and the Madison, ending with Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Twist, reminding us yet again of how pivotal that time was.

Finally, there’s a great plus in the new seating, much better than it was.

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