What a pleasure to see this hundred-year old play blossoming in 2016, as fresh, funny, witty and wise as when Mr Harold Briggs first wrote his “Uproarious Comedy” in 1916.
The Richmond Theatre’s plush Victorian architecture and interior make a fitting setting for this good-humoured story of a strong-willed woman overcoming all the gender and class inequalities in Victirian British society in general and Salford in particular.
It’s set in 1880, just ten years after the Married Women’s Act (by which divorced women were for the first time enabled to keep their own property). It was first staged in 1916, two years before any woman was allowed the vote in Britain.
Henry Hobson, owner of a prospering bootmaker’s shop, is a widower whose three daughters are getting very “uppish”: little wonder as they are all expected to work unpaid in the shop and to humour their father’s drinking habits and whims without question. The last
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.