Theatre and book reviews by Janice Dempsey
The last straw comes when Henry doesn’t want to provide the settlements that will enable them to become wives and mothers. (And the property of a man whom they have a greater chance of manipulating!)
When the play opens, Henry’s faced with insurrection from all three of his daughters. In particular, Maggie, the eldest, is intelligent, strongly independent and self-willed. She proves more than a match for her father’s inadequacies and assumptions of automatic male supremacy. Her no-nonsense retorts and her firm refusal to be manipulated by her father are delightfully familiar in our more gender-equal post-Victorian era!
By a combination of perceptive talent-spotting, cunning, good management and ambitious planning Maggie secures futures for herself, her sisters and the man she decides to marry, as well as for her father – and all by leaving Henry Hobson no choice but to support her plans for all of them.
Maggie is a wonderfully strong character and Naomi Frederick plays her for all she’s worth, as the power behind her chosen man, Willie Mossop. (Bryan Dick.) Willy, humble and socially weak as a bootmaker (but a talented bootmaker) is a brilliant foil for Martin Shaw as Henry Hobson, the archetypal Victorian pater familias. We almost feel sorry for Hobson, though our tears are of laughter as he tries to bluster his defiance against Maggie’s iron will.
This is a feel-good production of a timeless comedy of manners and historic social satire, played for all the laughs it richly deserves. Great play, excellent casting and production, delightful theatre. I'm so glad I had the chance to see it and review it for Essential Surrey's online news magazine.