Hard Times (2000)

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Poster by Poster Designer

by Charles Dickens Adapted for the stage by Stephen Jeffreys

Directed by Juliet Male

Performances: Tue 14th – Sat 18th November 2000, Bell Theatre


Dickens wrote 'Hard Times' as a satire on the mechanising effects of the Industrial Revolution. It is doubly unusual in that it is a short novel, even by modern standards and unlike most of his other works, it is not set in London.

The book evokes the blackened factories and the narrow labyrinth of streets of Coketown, a northern textile town. The atmosphere is grim with a polluted environment and selfish factory owners like the soulless Josiah Bounderby. The workers are downtrodden and what education they receive has become perverted. Thomas Gradgrind, the schoolmaster, is convinced that as long as his pupils devote themselves to facts and ignore anything to do with the imagination they will be well prepared for life. In many ways the book is a tragedy, as Dickens describes the slow destruction of Gradgrind's daughter, Louisa, under this harsh regime. She is starved of emotional stimulus and ruthlessly kept from anything that might give her imagination expression. The book is indeed a bitter attack on both the repression of the working classes in industrial England and on any educational system that does not allow for creativity.

Being Dickens, of course, the gloom is shot through with colour from a wealth of extravagant characters who provide humour and real entertainment. Amongst these are the affectionate and vibrant circus folk who illustrate a world where imagination rules and where feelings are spontaneous and freely shared. They are an antidote to the dreary world of Coketown and a symbol of hope.

This novel has a more obvious social message than many of Dickens' other works. It is beautifully written and its conciseness gives it power.

Juliet Male

The Scene: The action takes place in and around Coketown, an industrial town in the North of England, in the 19th century.




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