YOU reap what you sow. What goes around, comes around.... both missives apply to the life of Henry Horatio Hobson; father, old school pragmatist, shoe shop owner and chauvinist.
And Barrie Rutter is cunningly cast in Harold Brighouse’s classic comedy as the barky, larger-than-life Lancashire widower exasperated at the plight of his lot, which includes three ‘rebellious females of this house’ who run his business while he props up a bar.
He’d like them married off, except for eldest daughter Maggie, brains of the business but also the butt of Hobson’s most barbed remarks as he brands her a ‘shelved’ 30-year-old.
When this ‘proper old maid’ is driven to prove him wrong, she demands gifted bootmaker Will Mossop (a wonderfully wilting but malleable Philip McGinley) marry her and help start a rival shop.
Zoe Waites gives a potent performance as Maggie, forthright, tough, a creation of her father’s making, but vitally compassionate when really required by all.
At times Rutter’s accent begins to probe back across the Pennines, but his presence is at its peak when at his most incandescent, at times apoplectic to the point of camp with incredulity at what his ears are hearing.
He more than most relishes Brighouse’s delightful language, as Hobson acquiesces and absorbs a salutary, emancipating lesson about family and how not to treat those closest and most useful to you – surely values that have enabled this play to endure a century later. Christopher Luscombe’s direction of a likeable cast is warm, yet vibrant enough to draw us into 18th century Salford in a way that also keeps younger audience members engaged.
Choose Hobson until June 25.