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Hobson's Choice - Birmingham Royal Ballet Review

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Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Romantic Comedy Ballet At Its Best
It was 30 years ago that Hobson's Choice premiered when a then-young David Bintley looked on at his choreography knowing that he had created a real treasure.

Years later, he has talked about that excitement of knowing you've made "something that just works" and recalls Hobson's Choice with fondness at being a moment when he had the perfect cast, the perfect composer and the perfect designer.

Hobson's Choice, BRB, Birmingham Royal Ballet, David Bintley
David Bintley choreographed Hobson's Choice

With that in mind, Hobson's Choice is a fitting choice for Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) to bring back to stage as a final farewell to Bintley as he prepares to retire as the ballet company's Director in July to make way for acclaimed Carlos Acosta in January.

I caught the brief tour during Hobson's Choice stop-off at Birmingham Hippodrome, where it stays from June 19 to 22 before moving on to London's Sadler's Wells on June 28 and 29.

Bintley's signature piece is based on the Harold Brighouse play that also went on to become a famous film of the same name. It's very much character-led and is dance story-telling at its best with a light and breezy sense of entertainment that overflows with sincerity.

Romantic to its core, the choreography sweeps both the dancers and audience off their feet. It's witty, enchanting and heart-warming throughout and accompanied by the uplifting and melodic soundtrack by Paul Reade.

The music is unbelievably catchy but Reade is no stranger to creating memorable tunes as he is also behind themes for The Antiques Roadshow and The Flumps.

Hobson's Choice, BRB, Birmingham Royal Ballet, David Bintley
The narrative ballet is both charming and funny

Drawing you into the drama are lavish, detailed stage sets that move the action between the Hobson shoe shop in Edwardian era Salford to various spots across the town; from a park to outside the local pub.

The story follows the romantic escapades of three Hobson sisters, who are daughters of a drunken shoe shop owner. Particular attention is paid to the more steadfast and feisty eldest daughter Maggie, who has her sights set on the shy shoemaker, Will Mossop.

Playing Will is Lachlan Monaghan, who is exceptional and makes easy work of the technical choreography. He only became a soloist last year after climbing through BRB's ranks and is a bright new talent to keep an eye on. Monaghan has a wonderful chemistry with Samara Downs, dancing beautifully as his love interest Maggie.

Laura Purkiss and Delia Mathews bring wit, elegance and subtle character traits to their roles as the other two sisters amid a strong cast of dancers including Rory Mackay and Mathias Dingman as their beaus.

Hobson's Choice, BRB, Birmingham Royal Ballet, David Bintley
Birmingham Royal Ballet's Hobson's Choice

Bintley has spent a staggering 43 years in the industry with an illustrious career and this English Ballet is one of his best and most endearing.

It's the detail in the dance moves that make it such a joy. The way the women are swirled around in happiness by their loves or the sombre, tambourine banging band of Salvation Army volunteers, marching to their own beat in the park.

When Hobson's Choice premiered at the Royal Opera House in 1989, Bintley's work received a standing ovation the likes of which hadn't been seen since the premiere of Frederick Ashton's La Fille mal gardée in 1960.

I can understand why as this is a dizzyingly romantic ballet with the feel-good factor. You won't want it to end and when it does, you'll be desperate to see it again.

Hobson's Choice is an unmissable Bintley classic so catch it while you can.


Birmingham Hippodrome Box Office - or call 0844 338 5000

Sadler's Wells Box Office - or call 020 7863 8000

Tickets from £16
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Why? See beautifully charming and funny ballet
When: Until June 29
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome and Sadler's Wells in London
Cost: From £16
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