Review: Hobson’s Choice****

At Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Solid. It’s all just so... solid. Solid play, solid performances, solid set. Harold Brighouse’s 1915 take on the tale of a brow-beaten father with its shades of King Lear and Chekhov’s Three Sisters is period set, but also brought right up to date in Christopher Luscombe’s sparky revival which has plenty for a contemporary audience to enjoy.

In these parts – South Yorkshire, the titan of West Riding theatre Barrie Rutter is less well known. Not that the veteran lets that get in the way of providing a performance full of bombast in which he commands the stage and the audience.

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Rutter strides about like he owns the place – and I don’t just mean as the eponymous Hobson, owner of a Salford shoe shop.

Typical Rutter, it is a performance that also packs one or two surprises – his comic timing is as sharp as I’ve seen it in almost a decade of watching the actor with his company Northern Broadsides and there is, in the final act, a gentleness unexpected of the actor manager who sometimes appears a century out of his own time.

His performance is equalled by Zoe Waites as the eldest and most rebellious of his three daughters, who undoes her father by matching his wit. Philip McGinley, who plays Will Mossop with more than a shade of Frank Spencer is beguiling in this entertaining production.

To June 25.

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