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Touring the UK 2018

A new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew (Winner of UK Theatre Award Best New Play – An August Bank Holiday Lark)

Directed by Conrad Nelson
Designed by Dawn Allsopp
Lighting by Mark Howland
Musical director Rebekah Hughes

The premiere of Deborah McAndrew’s  witty new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ great Northern novel of repression and longing Hard Times.

Imagine a world where imagination is forbidden. Coketown is such a place. Thomas Gradgrind will not permit fanciful thoughts in his school or his home. But what effect will this policy have on his own children, Tom and Louisa? How can he protect them from corrupting influences – especially when the circus comes to town?

Dark satanic mills, interrupted by the colour and vibrancy of Sleary’s Circus, set the stage for a sweeping tale of suppressed love, seduction and social mores, peopled with the sharply observed exaggerated characters that Dickens is celebrated for.

Playwright Deborah McAndrew said about adapting the classic tale:

‘I’ve always admired Hard Times – Dickens’ one truly Northern novel. The title is a bit off putting, giving the impression of a story that is relentlessly grim. However, it’s full of all the usual brilliant Dickens characters, and lots of very good jokes. It’s also a life affirming story, and a manifesto against a dry, utilitarian approach to education and human discourse in general.

At his school Mr Gradgrind insists on facts and only facts. His pupils and his own children are not just limited, but psychologically and emotionally damaged by the exclusion of the Arts from their education and their lives. In the 21st Century, with our own education system increasingly focused on a core of fact based subjects at the expense of music, drama and art, this tale seems as pertinent as ever – and Hard Times might just as well be called ‘Our Times’.

Director Conrad Nelson added:

Nestled amongst the charcoal-etched towers of Dicken’s fictional Coketown sit the bold stripes of Ringmaster Sleary’s Gilliam-like circus tent. Hoop-la! It is in this vibrant three-ringed arena that we set our play and where we celebrate life, risk, adventure and the power of imagination.

Audiences will meet the characters below a big top where the flames of a circus fire-eater become the flaming coals of the inscrutable young Louise Gradgrind as she stares into the fire, searching for something within herself that she knows is missing, and where the taught line of the tightrope walker becomes the precarious strand of Stephen Blackpool’s happiness between an ill-advised early marriage and the promise of a future with the true love of his life.

In Deborah McAndrew’s witty and imaginative adaptation, we maintain all the humour and pathos of the original novel, presented with a lightness of touch in a clear and fluent drama.

It might be grim up north in Coketown, but this is a place populated by the most colourful personalities that you’re ever likely to meet. Broadsides’ vibrant performance style and musical verve and wit are best suited to deliver Charles Dickens at his popular best. Northern Broadsides – not for gradgrinds.”


The Dukes, Lancaster –
Tue 27 Feb – Sat 3 Mar
Box Office: 01524 598500

The Lowry, Salford Quays
Tue 6- Sat 10 Mar
Box Office: 0843 2086000

Liverpool Playhouse
Tue 27-Sat 31 Mar
Box office: 0151 7094776

New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme
Tue 4- Sat 14 Apr
Box Office 01782 717962

Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
Tue 17– Sat 21 Apr
Box Office: 01723 370541

Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
Wed 2-Sat 5 May

Box Office: 01484 430528

Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Tue 16- Sat 19 May
Box Office: 01284 469505


West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
Tue 22- Sat 26 May
Box Office: 0113 213 7700

The Cast



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