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Northern Broadsides bring unique take on Dickens Hard Times to the Playhouse

NORTHERN Broadsides return to the Playhouse from 27-31 March with a tale of supressed love, seduction and social mores, peopled with the sharply observed exaggerated characters of Charles Dickens in: Hard Times.

Directed by former Wirral resident Conrad Nelson, the show will be his last visit to the Playhouse as resident director of Northern Broadsides before taking over as artistic director from the company’s founder and long-serving artistic director Barrie Rutter.

A witty and imaginative adaptation by playwright Deborah McAndrew, Hard Times takes audiences to a world where imagination is forbidden.

In the northern town of Coketown, 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 colour and vibrancy of Sleary’s Circus comes to town?

Conrad Nelson said: “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.”

Hard Times visits the Playhouse from 27-31 March. Tickets are available by calling the Playhouse Box Office on 0151 709 4776 or by visiting


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