Hobson’s Choice

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Whilst waiting for the new Beckenham Theatre Company to get up and running next year, we are currently running “virtual” play readings most months using Zoom. Unless otherwise stated, these are for adults only as not all the chosen plays are suitable for younger members. Generally, these readings are every first Wednesday of the month at 8 pm and should finish no later than 10.30 pm.

The events are facilitated by Phil Cohen who, if you don’t know him, is a long-standing member of the theatre and often works with Bromley Little Theatre and South London Theatre as well. Phil also runs our Zoom socials on a Friday evening and would love you to join in with those too when they are operating! They are normally announced in advance on our Facebook page.

Anyone is welcome to join these play reading groups – you don’t have to be a BTC member to come along – so, even if you are unfamiliar with using Zoom, don’t let this put you off as Phil would still be pleased to hear from you and will discuss how to get you set up with the Zoom program – it’s very easy once you know-how! The theatre also now has a Zoom Pro account so we have unlimited time online – useful as the readings can be of variable length!

The December play reading is on Wednesday, 1st December 2021 at 8 pm and this month is Hobson’s Choice.

Hobson’s Choice is a play by Harold Brighouse, the title taken from the popular expression Hobson’s choice meaning “no choice at all”.

The first production was at the Princess Theatre in New York on 2 November 1915.

The story concerns Henry Hobson who runs a boot manufacturer business in 1880s Salford. He is overbearing, controlling, and a drunk. When his eldest daughter, Maggie, stands up to him and announces her intentions to marry one of Hobson’s employees, Willie Mossop, Hobson is astounded. He refuses to settle a dowry on either of his two younger daughters and is furious when Maggie takes matters into her own hands and sets up marriages for her sisters herself.

Maggie’s business acumen, independence, and stubbornness are alien to the old-fashioned, curmudgeonly Hobson. Together, she and Willie set up their own shoe business that strips most of Hobson’s trade and builds them up as a successful couple in business.

When Hobson’s drinking gets out of control, the previously timid Willie steps in to intervene. He informs his father-in-law that Hobson’s business is worth very little and that he and Maggie will return to look after Hobson if he agrees to make Willie a partner in the business. Hobson himself must be a sleeping partner only. Backed into a corner, with no other option, Hobson agrees.

Hobson’s Choice is a focused, comedic exploration of the changing status and expectations of women within late-Victorian society. Regularly performed in theatres, both amateur and professional, since it was written over 100 years ago, it is probably best known from David Lean’s 1954 version starring Charles Laughton as Hobson, Sir John Mills as Willie Mossop, Brenda de Banzie as Maggie Hobson and a very young Prunella Scales as Vicky Hobson, one of Maggie’s sisters.

If you are interested in participating in this reading, please contact Phil Cohen at btcplayreadings@gmail.com. In return, Phil will send you a script, a role to play (which might be shared with other actors depending on the numbers involved) and the Zoom link to join the meeting.