Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A fine choice for a night out

Making a choice: Paul Viles (Henry Horatio Hobson), Amy Parr (Alice Hobson), Laura Nock (Vickey Hobson), Gary Pritchard (Will Mossop), Liz Webster (Maggie Hobson)

 Hobson's Choice

The Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


NEARLY a quarter of a century after playing Henry Horatio Hobson for this talented amateur company, veteran actor Paul Viles has returned from retirement as an actor to do it again. And with style.

It's a great part in Harold Brighouse's classic Lancashire comedy about the wealthy but grumpy owner of a Salford hand-made boot and shoe shop, and he fills the boots with consummate ease.

Even so the excellent Viles is upstaged by Liz Webster, the hard-drinking businessman's eldest daughter, Maggie, brains behind the shop's success and who, at 30, is considered an old maid by her father and out of the marriage market.

Liz is a real delight, with a range of wonderful expressions, as she stuns Hobson and her snooty younger sisters by announcing that she will marry the apparently gormless Will Mossop, the shy cellar-based bootmaker whose skill attracts quality customers.

Horrified Henry takes his belt to worried Will in his fury, but Maggie knows her man's worth, sets up a rival shoe shop which soon relieve's Hobson of many of his prized customers.

Mossop, beautifully played by Gary Pritchard, is at first terrified by the prospect of getting wed to the boss's clever daughter, but she transforms him in more ways than one, and eventually, cleverly guided by the masterful Maggie, he takes over the long-established business and re-names it 'Mossop & Hobson'.

Paul Viles reprising the role of Henry Hobson he last played almost 25 years go with his old maid of a daughter Maggie played by Liz Webster who shines like the finest shoes in the shop

Fine performances, too, from Amy Parr and Laura Nock as Maggie's sisters Alice and Vickey, while Robert Onions, who played Mossop in 1989, returns as Tubby Wadlow, another of Hobson's underpaid workers.

Alice and Vickey are being courted by young solicitor Albert Prosser (Dexter Whitehead) and local businessman Fred Beenstock (Liam Matthews-Dibbins), but as Hobson hates lawyers that causes yet another upset. Especially when, after another session in the Moonrakers (his local) the drunken Henry falls through an open cellar door into Beenstock's premises on his way home and is promptly sued for trespass.

Viles sparkles in his numerous clashes with family and would-be sons-in-law, and is then involved in amusing exchanges with Dr MacFarlane (David Stone) after being warned that his illness is caused by his heavy drinking which could kill him unless he gives up the booze he loves.

Somehow it all comes right in the end, thanks to the marvellous Maggie, and a by now super confident Will who exclaims as he surveys his new empire: "Bah Gum".

A fine cast is completed by Rosemary Manjunath (Mrs Hepworth), Chris Waters (Jim Heeler) and Sarah Richards (Ada Figgins).

The costumes used by the cast - particularly the ladies' dresses - are excellent, and full marks to the producer and director Martin Groves who also designed the three impressive sets....the interior of Hobson's shop, his living room, and Will Mossop's shop, all well constructed and realistic.

A classic play brilliantly performed. One of the great moments comes when the innocent and nervous Mossop, unsure of his other skills on his wedding night, is led into the bedroom by Maggie who, already in her nightie, grasps him by the ear and marches him to his destiny. To 17-03-12.

Paul Marston  

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