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Hobson's Choice, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Hippodrome - review with pictures

By Maria Cusine | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

Birmingham Royal Ballet director David Bintley has come full circle by choosing one of his earliest creations as his swansong.

Samara Downs as Maggie Hobson and Lachlan Monaghan as Will Mossop; Photo: Bill Cooper

In may ways, Hobson's Choice is an unusual one. No fairytale tutus, no mythical creatures or exotic locations and no familiar score.

Instead, Mr Bintley, who steps down as director next month after 24 years at the helm, delivers a production which steps into the divide between traditional ballet and musical theatre, with a touch of slap-stick old time music hall thrown in for good measure - as well as a big dose of no-nonsense northern grittiness.

It's a quirky formula and it works extremely well.

The work, based on Harold Brighouse's comical play which was turned into a film starring John Mills, tells the fortunes of drunken bootmaker Henry Hobson and his three daughters in Victorian Lancashire.

It's an insight into the social class system of the 19th Century with echoes of the very English Mary Poppins-style era.

The romantic comedy is told with sharply drawn characters superbly portrayed by the company's dancers. Jonathan Payn is excellent as the drunken Hobson, while there are outstanding performances from Samara Downs and Lachlan Monaghan.

Laura Purkiss as Vickey Hobson and Mathias Dingman as Fred Beenstock; Photo: Bill Cooper

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Delia Matthews as Alice Hobson and Rory Mackay as Albert Prosser; Photo: Bill Cooper

Downs beautifully acts and dances the role of Hobson's eldest daugter Maggie, who falls head over heels in love with bashful yet cheery working class cobbler Will Mossop, played superbly by Monaghan.

There are also wonderful performances from Laura Purkiss and Delia Matthews, who take on the roles of Hobson's other daughters, and Mathias Dingman and Rory Mackay, who play their suitors.

Despite veering towards the theatrical, the production stays true to its classical ballet roots, with notable highlights including a lively Salvation Army scene in the park with the fantastic Royal Ballet Sinfonia orchestra echoing a northern colliery band and the joyous finale in the shoe shop incorporating an excellent pas de deux between Will and Maggie.

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There were comic touches galore including the drunken father's antics and his hallucinations in the form of pink mice and the Salvation Army's percussionist's over-enthusiastic use of the cymbals.

Momoko Hirata, Maureya Lebowitz, Tyrone Singleton and Arancha Baselga as members of the Salvation Army; Photo: Bill Cooper
Laura Purkiss as Vickey Hobson, Mathias Dingman as Fred Beenstock, Lachlan Monaghan as Will Mossop, Rory Mackay as Albert Prosser and Delia Matthews as Alice Hobson with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; Photo: Bill Cooper

Bonnets, boaters and bowlers helped stamp a very English feel to the show, which was a visual treat thanks to an effective and atmospheric sepia-tinged backdrop.

An entertaining lovable comedy, Hobson's Choice certainly proved the right choice. What a wonderful way for David Bintley to celebrate almost a quarter of a century of a career with the company.

Hobson's Choice runs at the Hippodrome until Saturday.

Maria Cusine

By Maria Cusine
@MCusine_Star

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