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Birmingham Hippodrome was packed to the rafters for the last performance of the week’s latest incarnation of David Bintley’s sublime creation, Hobson’s Choice.
Based on Harold Brighouse’s classic northern comedy set in an 1880 Salford bootmaker’s, it’s a moral tale about a boozy employer who rules his three daughters who work in the shop and his downtrodden boot hand Willie Mossop with a Victorian rod of iron.
But this is not only the classic Cinderella-type story, it’s the tale of the energy and industriousness of the downtrodden masses during the industrial revolution, and their true-grit success.
Because when Hobson tells his daughter Maggie she cannot wed anyone, let alone Willie, (mainly because she’s too much use to him in the house and shop) the lowly worker mans up, emboldened by somebody taking him seriously, and takes her away to start up on his own in a cellar workshop while facilitating the marriages of the two other daughters as well.
So here’s the classic capitalist tale of hard working success shamelessly told with abundant comedy and absolutely no apologies to Shakespeare’s King Lear.
In Bintley’s sure hands the tale told with cheeky charm is one of his most treasured creations, perhaps the most sublime of his character ballets, proving to future audiences what a master of story-telling he is.
Amongst a stellar cast, Birmingham Royal Ballet stalwart Dominic Antonucci was marvellous as Hobson senior, the boozy bullying father of all time, while Laura Day and Yvette Knight were his terrorised younger daughters Vickey and Alice.
James Barton and Valentin Olovyannikov were their easily abashed suitors Freddie Beenstock and Albert Prosser, but of course it was the brilliant Beatrice Palmer as Maggie his eldest and feistiest daughter who showed them the way.
Still, in any production there’s always a star and here it was newcomer (to me) Max Maslen as Willie Mossop who brought the house down with his marvellously charmed performance on this wonderful night.
But lo, there was still more to come.
Because at the finale, before the whole company and a packed standing audience Birmingham Royal Ballet creator Sir Peter Wright summed up Mr Bintley’s marvellously prolific 27 year reign on this last evening before his retirement as its supremo to cheers from a rapt, standing audience.
It doesn’t get much more real than this. A fitting final flourish to a marvellous career.