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BRB - Hobsons Choice


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What a fantastic evening I had watching BRB perform Hobsons Choice on Thursday! I am afraid I do not have sufficient technical knowledge to be able to provide a detailed review, but I enjoy watching ballet and Thursday's performance certainly did not disappoint! This is the first time that I have seen this ballet and I was not really sure what to expect, but I came away feeling uplifted and delighted to have experienced something different from my usual choice of more well known ballets. Robert Parker was superb as Will Mossop - he was so full of energy and his characterisation of Mossop was fantastic. I totally believed in him. Joseph Caley impressed me too with his precision and David Morse as Hobson portayed a very believable figure. High quality indeed from this superb company.

 

Just a shame that there were a few empty seats in the middle circle.

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I saw the Saturday matinee and all I can is BRILLIANT! It was a joy to watch. Alexander Campbell played Will Mossop with such a lovely humour he was great. What happened to his position at Royal Ballet? Their loss = BRB gain. Yet again the enjoyment of the dancers was palpable throughout the performance. I particularly enjoyed the lovely park dance scenes and lovely costumes and coloured pointe shoes! The whole thing was a real treat.

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A very great pleasure yesterday to see this beautiful tale of the lives and relationships of real people in a down to earth place, packed with romance and humour, delightful incidents and touching moments, the odd dark one not excluded. In the context of BRB's announcement of mostly fairy story classics for next year, it felt an extra-special treat.

 

It was good to see Alex Campbell back again with the company. His performance as Will Mossop was good, if not all I thought he might make of it. Most successful was his fast, light and effortless looking dancing - his solos and the fun ensemble pieces with Fred Beenstock and Albert Prosser, here extremely well taken by Joe Caley and Rory Mackay, all enjoying themselves as they cut loose. As for characterisation, Mossop's reserve, shyness and awkwardness were well done, but there were times when other sides of his character could have been more clearly portrayed, without restraint. When playing with the shoes and boots, he thinks he is unobserved, and I wanted to see a more uninhibited release of playful simple carefree exuberance. And as the work reached its end, to accompany his rise in status, perhaps a more confident, bolder Mossop, owning the stage, his shop, was called for.

 

Maggie Hobson is a great character, all iron-willed, fiercely strict, no nonsense, keeping everyone in their place, and that's all there is to her, until, at the flick of a switch, she's human, with feelings and emotions. There are some beautiful touches in the part. The two looks through the door window, firstly in sadness at being left in the shop - in life - alone; and then just a little later in delight as a confused Mossop makes a rather flustered exit. And the arms saying, "yes, I have all this, yet still I am poor". Wonderful stuff. Ambra Vallo was quite superb. I thought her performance a masterclass - a dancer playing the character (not herself), and revealing so much character not through acting, but through choreographed steps, movement and body language. She stuck to the task with strict control and discipline and it paid great dividends.

 

A quick mention for two others I hugely enjoyed: Joe Caley, always a pleasure to watch for his great lines, precision and musicality, and here combined with fine acting to make a very dapper and highly amusing Fred Beenstock. And much praise to Laura Purkiss, a beautiful dancer, sparkling in every detail as Vickey Hobson - what a fine couple she and Caley made. So, here's hoping that amongst the relentless tide of princes, dolls, kings and queens, beauties, beasts and ugly sisters, a fair share of the stage can be reserved for these real people too.

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I LOVE HOBSON'S CHOICE!

 

I first saw this production at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 1989 and it is still one of those ballets that I can watch over and over without ever getting tired of it. I was very familiar with the plot because the 1954 film was mandatory viewing within my family whenever it was on television. My Dad had an accident very similar to Hobson's fall into the grain cellar so we always used to think of it as his story!

 

Seeing David Bintley's ballet again this year after seeing a terrific production of the play in Sheffield last June made me realise just how clever he has been in translating the play into a ballet. There are a number of significant and very moving silences between Maggie and Will that he has skillfully incorporated into their duets. As with all the best comedies, David Bintley has created sections of the ballet that bring a giant lump to your throat and tears to your eyes - it is both extremely funny and intensely moving.

 

I felt there was a particular poignancy in the performances this year with Alexander Campbell coming back to guest as Will Mossop and with Robert Parker giving his final performances as Will Mossop.

 

I will say from the outset that it seemed to me that all the dancers were having a ball and I enjoyed five glorious ensemble performances. There are six fantastic leading roles for the dancers as well as the wonderful character role of Hobson and some superb cameo roles. As well as the leading roles, there is the virtuoso Salvation Army section to enjoy.

 

What can I say about Robert Parker? When watching the two performances where he was listed on the cast sheet as dancing Mossop, I looked at the stage and didn't see Robert Parker, I saw Will Mossop! He is completely subsumed into the role. His performances are always filled with an incredible energy that is exhilerating to watch. His Maggie was Elisha Willis, whose stern but melting Maggie was a joy to behold. David Morse's understated Hobson was an acting masterclass for the younger generation.

 

Alexander Campbell was partnered by the glorious Ambra Vallo (and oh how I would love to see a continuation of this partnership!). Alexander really got under the skin of Will Mossop. His performance really brought out the fact that this was a story of love across class. His Mossop was not simple, he was at the bottom of the pecking order and knew his place. He did not know how to handle the situation he found himself in with Maggie and it was a joy to watch Mossop's growing confidence and love of Maggie. The role of Maggie is perfect for Ambra, always a supreme artiste. Her Maggie was in equal measure stern and vulnerable. Yes, she had spunk but she was absolutely crushed when her father laughed at the idea she might find someone who wanted to marry her. With Ambra's performances I got a real impression that her courting of Mossop did just not come about because of that one incident but that she had been watching him for some time, realising his worth and character.

 

There is a real spark between Ambra and Alexander and I found their first duet very moving (yes, ok, I blubbed throughout!). When they were sitting on the park bench, Alexander's face and body language were exquisite - you could see him desparately trying to think of something to say to Maggie. Again, their duet on their wedding night was sublime.

 

We saw a mixture of Beenstocks, Prossers, Vickeys and Alices and they were all terrific. Both Rory Mackay and Jonathan Payn were hilarious as Prosser. Steven Monteith and Joy Caley were both delightfully English in their interpretation of Beenstock. Matthew Lawrence gave a more broad brush but equally valid reading of the role. Samara Downs and Victoria Marr were both sublime as dipstick, ditzy Alice. Carole-Ann Millar, Laura Purkiss and Laetita lo Sardo all brought chuckles with their interpretations of Vickey.

 

Both Valentin Olovyannikov and Brandon Lawrence brought the house down with their side-splittingly funny performances as the cymbal player in the Sally Army.

 

After five wonderful performances, I can confirm that Hobson's Choice is still one of my favourite ballets and I hope it is soon back in the rep.

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After reading these wonderful reviews (and as I am not likely to see this ballet at a theatre), I have ordered the DVD from Amazon (with my Christmas Amazon gift certificate.) I see it was made in 2006, can you please tell me who is in the cast, as I could not read it clearly on the Amazon site. Also, it is definitely BRB performing, I hope? As I would not want another company. Bintley has the magic touch.

 

I remember seeing Hobson's Choice ballet on television many years ago, and was absolutely enchanted with it. It has always been on my "must get" list of DVDs.

 

Am I correct in thinking that Kevin O'Hare (now of the RB) performed as Will Mossop some time ago? Did he create the role? Also Isabel McMeekan was a wonderful Maggie, I believe?

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DVD cast is, I think, Michael O'Hare and Karen Donovan, though I suspect someone will correct me if I'm wrong - it definitely wasn't recorded in 2006, but a lot earlier, I'd guess early 90s? I have it at home on VHS, but obviously can't get at it at the moment. I'm not sure whether Kevin O'Hare ever danced Will: there were some roles the O'Hare brothers overlapped in, and others they didn't, and I'm not sure which this role qualifies as.

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Michael O'Hare created the role of Will Mossop with Karen Donovan as Maggie. Prosser was created by Stephen Wicks and Beenstock by Joseph Cipolla. The sisters - I always get them mixed up - were Sandra Madgwick and Chenca Williams. Kevin danced Beenstock in the early days (he was my first Beenstock in fact) and Prosser in later seasons. Desmond Kelly created Hobson. David Morse, who was dancing last week, danced during the first season in 1989 too.

 

Isabel McMeekan danced Maggie with Robert Parker as Mossop and she was, indeed, wonderful. After she joined the RB, she came back to guest in the role in a similar way to us just seeing Alex Campbell back as Mossop.

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I thought throwing the bouquet into the audience a great touch - it took me completely by surprise - wasn't expecting it at all. The bouquet is thrown in the DVD performance but not into the audience - there is none - it's a performance for a film version.

 

Let's hope you don't end up catching one of this week's pigeons Janet!

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Enjoyed the Spring Passions matinee yesterday. Daphnis and Chloe was not for me, it was a touch too far towards the modern end of the ballet spectrum for my liking, not that it was not very well danced by Chi Cao and Nao Sakuma. The leader of the Pirates Bryaxis was played by Tzu-Chao Chou - he really is one to watch! The Star of the show though was Two Pigeons. There was so much in there that I had not remembered since I last saw TP ages ago. I loved the gypsy scenes which brought back fond memories of Don Q from which I am suffering severe withdrawal symptoms given no Russian visit this summertr2.gifJo Caley made a lovely job of the young man I really enjoyed his portrayal and he has a nice comic touch. An excellent performance.

Edited by Don Q Fan
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  • 8 months later...

I just ordered the DVD of Hobson's Choice from amazon.co.uk. It only exists in PAL format but I just got myself a portable DVD player that handles both European and N American DVDs. Can't wait to see it! I was intrigued though by the note on amazon that said the ballet is in "English and Castillian". ?????

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aarrrggh, it won't play on my player!!! (in any language). Curses. Will I have to buy a portable DVD player when I'm next in the UK??

 

Try playing it on your computer - windows media player is usually ok as I have sent region 2 stuff to my friend in the USA and she played it OK on her pc.

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