Dronfield Players to stage Hobson’s Choice

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A tale of northern folk with controlling women, strong-willed men and comedy aplenty - what is there not to love about the play Hobson’s Choice?

Those reasons have spurred Dronfield Players to revisit Harold Brighouse’s composition 28 years after their first performance.

Director Ginny Priestley said: “Hobson’s Choice is a classic. It has got a good story, good humour and we have had a lot of fun rehearsing it.”

The play about a bootmaker, his three daughters and his employees is set in Lancashire in the 19th century.

Staging the play is a big challenge for the players. Ginny said: “There are three different sets for four acts. The first set is Hobson’s shop with a trap door leading to the cellar where men make shoes.”

Other scenes are set in converted cellars where Hobson’s oldest daughter, Maggie, and his top worker, Willy, have set up a rival business, and in Hobson’s living room.

In order to recreate the Victorian period, the players have borrowed costumes from Dronfield Light Opera Group and are hiring others from the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham.

Ginny said: “I really do feel you have to have authentic looking costumes.

“There is a great bit in the play where Hobson is horrified because his two youngest daughters have been out and bought dresses with bustles.”

Women getting one over on the men features quite heavily in the play, with a key character, Maggie, proving a dominant force.

Ginny said: “Being a bit of a feminist I like the idea of Maggie controlling all these strong men.”

The role of Maggie is played by Janet Black who said: “Maggie is on stage all the time. The role is mentally challenging because of the large number of lines she has. She changes character as the show progresses, she softens towards the end.

“It is the first time I have done the play.

“I have seen it done when I was at secondary school in Sheffield where my daughter’s godmum played Maggie. I knew what the play was about but I didn’t realise how big a role it was.”

Janet, a supply teacher who lives in Dronfield, added: “I am playing it with a Lancashire touch coming through the Yorkshire accent.”

She stars opposite Gary Jarvis, who plays the role of Willie Mossop. Gary, 55, who is an artist living in Unstone, said: “It is a great part....my last scene sees me prancing around looking like I own the stage. I like the era in which it is set, I love history.”

Gary appeared in the company’s production of Dad’s Army last year as the U-boat captain. Since then, he has played the Emperor in Bolsover Drama Group’s production of Aladdin.

John Pashley has been cast in the role of Henry Hobson, having played the role of Willie Mossop last time the players aired the play.

He said: “Hobson’s Choice is a play that I have always loved. Since we did it in 1986 I have been to see it every time it has been within striking distance.”

He’s one of two Dronfield Players who have secured roles in both productions by the group.

John said: “Hobson is a well respected character, a businessman and mason. He talks of himself as being British middle-class and is quite a pompous character.

“The play is about the rise and fall of those who are at the top of their trees but don’t always stay there. It is a very well-written play with good comedy and is one of my favourites.”

David Rowe is reprising the role of Jim Heeler, who is Hobson’s drinking companion. “I was 46 when I did it the last time....I’m now 73,” he said. “I volunteered for the role because it is a nice little character part.”

A veteran of Dronfield Players, David took part in his first play with the group in 1969 when a production of Inherit The Wind was staged at Dronfield Parish Church. He added: “I have done about 60 plays and kept all the scripts.”

Chrissy Broughton and Louise Grayson are making their return to the Dronfield stage, after last appearing in the players’ production of Move Over Mrs Markham in 2009.

They play Hobson’s younger daughters, with Chrissy cast as Alice and Louise as Vickey.

Chrissy said: “Alice was quite close to her mum and doesn’t get on with her father. She is quite a snob, becomes more haughty and snobbish as the show progresses and looks down her nose at Willie Mossop and Maggie.

Commenting on her role, Louise said: “Vickey is the youngest...at the beginning of the show, she is a bit ditsy, a bit of a daddy’s girl. Then she meets her husband and by the end of the show is pregnant.”

Real-life motherhood meant that treading the boards took a back seat for Louise who has a 16-month daughter with her husband and fellow player, Richard. She said: “It is nice to be back on stage.”

Coincidentally, while looking through his original script for the play, company stalwart David Rowe discovered that in 1986 the role of Alice was played by Chrissie Matthews and the role of Vickey by Louise Wentworth.

n Hobson’s Choice runs at Dronfield Civic Hall from April 2 to 5 at 7.30pm. Tickets £7 and £6; available by calling 01246 417850, from Steels, Chesterfield Road, Dronfield (tel. 01246 413242) or Geoff’s DIY in Dronfield Civic Centre (tel. 01246 417602).