It was ahead of its time in 1916.
Hobson’s Choice, written by Harold Brighouse, may be full of old costumes and Victorian values but it still has a burning radical streak.
The period comedy, which is being performed to a superb standard at The Garrick this week, has a lot to say about the fall of a tyrant in a shifting world.
In the wake of huge modern movements like #MeToo and Extinction Rebellion, today’s audiences will find plenty of relevance in a play about both the dark side of capitalism and a bully who is past his time.
Set in 1880, it tells of boozy Salford bootmaker, Henry Hobson, an angry widower with three daughters, who do all the housework and run his shop without wages.
Henry is a champion of fading Victorian middle-class values, and wars with his children - products of a new age - over their “uppish” or arrogant choice of clothing.
Alan Hargreaves is a stellar choice for the role of Hobson.
Not only does he command the stage with his natural stage presence and comical timing, Alan gives a powerful and believable performance during Hobson’s fits of rage.
He makes for a frightening character - but one who is vulnerable enough to spark a degree of empathy.
Hazel Mrozek makes for a strong Maggie, a proto-feminist with a mind for business and a tough yet gentle spirit.
Maggie’s younger sisters, Alice and Vickey, are played by Charis Deighton and Ellie Humberstone.
The siblings are anxious to marry the suitors they love but their father refuses to pay the dowry that would set them free from life in his shop.
Charis and Ellie do a terrific job of accurately portraying the snobbish attitudes of the sisters towards the lower working class, while still making them sympathetic characters, whose lives are controlled by their unreasonable father.
Christopher Taylor’s Willy Mossop, a gifted boot-maker who Maggie coerces into marriage, is funny and endearing.
He is a timid, working-class lad with no idea of his own talents; but his fiancé is determined to sear a generous dose of ambition into his brain and set up shop with him.
Supporting roles are played skilfully by Matt Whatley and Aaron George as Alice and Vickey’s romantic interests, Albert and Fred.
Millie Green also shines as Maggie’s love rival, Ada Figgins.
The remaining smaller roles are depicted with excellent stage presence by Kath Riley, Giles Williams, David Pilkington and Keith Pounder.
Brilliant director Richard Sanderson has brought his magic touch to The Garrick revival.
He has an impressive attention to detail and this is seen in both the physical presentation of the play and the wonderful depiction of character.
Set in a world where women are seen as either their father’s or husband’s property, Hobson’s Choice might seem a bit dated at first glance. But audiences will find it is an emotionally compelling tale about standing up to tyrants.
Performances continue tonight and tomorrow at 7-30pm at The ACE Centre, Cross Street, Nelson. Tickets: 01282 661234.