After the week of get in mayhem and madness we were somehow, finally ready to go on stage with Hobson's Choice. I was playing the part of Alice, the biggest role I have ever had with the Players and had an absolute whale of a time with her. She is (I hope) completely unlike me; a spoilt, selfish, bratty madam who sulks and stamps when she doesn't get her own way. Sinead's character, Vicky, was very similar to mine and neither of us could understand how on earth either of them attracted husbands, or why Maggie would go out of her way to help them when they are just so ungrateful and undeserving of assistance! I'm getting ahead of myself here though.
Numbers were fantastic, with all three nights nearly full and the Saturday completely sold out - a very exciting and nerve wracking situation to be in!
Hobson's Choice is set in Salford near Manchester in the 1880's and centers around Henry Horatio Hobson, the owner and master of a shoe shop. Hobson has three daughters, the eldest is the practical and responsible Maggie, and the two younger daughters are Alice and Vickey. All three daughters work in the shop for no wages, although Alice and Vickey, according to their father are both 'mostly window dressing in the shop' whilst Maggie is useful, 'too valuable to part with' and 'a wonder at selling in the shop'.
One day Alice's beau, the lawyer Albert Prosser comes into the shop to court Alice. Maggie, being ever practical, doesn't allow any time or contact between the two and instead sells a bemused and out-of-his-depth Albert a pair of shoes before kicking him out of the shop. An irate Alice points out to Maggie that, at 30, she is over the hill but Alice and Vickey still have a chance at making a good match.
Undaunted, Maggie presents the idea to Ada (who has arrived to give Will his dinner), in the form of a business proposal, leaving Ada scrambling for words, and eventually pushed out of the door (returning swiftly to take Will's dinner away and promising that 'you'll come 'ome t'night to a thick ear!'
A month later Maggie has left the shop with Will, Vickey and Alice are in charge of the shop floor and Tubby is lamenting the fact that the shop has now lost all of the high class trade and no one wants any boots made. Alice is having trouble with the accounts, having been put there in Maggie's place, and all she can think of to do is get Tubby to make clogs, despite the fact they are not selling any. The shop is looking in a bad way without Maggie and Will.
"In private?" cries Hobson. "Yes, I daresay, and all the worse for that. It's done amongst themselves in lawyers' offices behind closed doors so no one can see they're squeezing twice as hard in private as they'd dare to do in public. There's some restraint demanded by a public place, but privately! It'll cost a fortune to settle this in private, Maggie". He eventually agrees to settle out of court, as long as it is not in a lawyers office, at which point Maggie gets Albert to appear from the bedroom and sits him down to settle the matter then and there.
One year later and Tubby is cooking breakfast. Jim Heeler arrives having heard that Hobson is very sick and Tubby goes out to fetch a doctor.
The girls send their father away to go and get dressed and argue amongst themselves, with Vickey and Alice stating that it is Maggie's duty as the eldest and also should be a pleasure to get away from her cellars. Maggie goes into the shop to speak to Will who has just arrived.
Left on their own, Vickey points out to Alice that they need to be careful, as if Maggie does come to live with Hobson, it may result in her getting a larger share of Hobson's will. Alice rushes to the door to go and fetch her husband, Albert, to draw the will up at once.
Hobson, gleeful at the idea that Maggie will be coming back, announces that he will give them one of the rooms to live in and will take Willie back on his old wage. Will attempts to leave with Maggie, with a bemused Hobson asking why. Willie explains that he is now the master of a business that is starving Hobson's to death. In the last year they have made back all the money that was lent to them to start up by Mrs Hepworth and made more on top of that. He won't be coming back as an employee but will instead close down his business and set up at Hobson's instead, taking Hobson onto in partnership as a sleeping partner. He argues with Maggie over the name of the new business, eventually settling on 'Mossop and Hobson'.
As the door closes behind Maggie and Hobson, a changed Will, now the Master of Hobson's stands in the center of the shop and with a wry smile, murmurs 'well, by gum'.