Playing it for laughs

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HENRY Hobson would be something of a laughing stock in today’s world – but then he didn’t do too well in his own either.

Christopher Luscombe’s jaunty rendition of the classic Edwardian comedy Hobson’s Choice, at Sheffield’s Crucible, is played almost entirely for laughs, and it certainly gets plenty.

Barrie Rutter’s expansive skinflint Hobson is a cartoon character; the bluff and bluster is never designed to be taken seriously, and even his pathetic decline raised plenty of chuckles from the audience.

Zoe Waites is a Maggie Hobson to be reckoned with: straight-backed, determined and the tallest person on stage, she steamrollers her iron will over father, sisters and prospective husband alike. Yet here she has a softer side, pressing a flower in her bible, and clearly nervous on her wedding night.

Philip McGinley’s Will Mossop begins as meek as milk, but the character is a quick study and gives the actor a chance to show his range. By the end he is shaping up into a worthy mate for his redoubtable wife.

A team of capable minor players, spot-on Lancashire accents, and wonderful sound effects including a train running overhead all contribute to a production the Crucible can be proud of.

Hobson’s Choice is running until June 25. LYNNE PATRICK