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Hard Times

© Nobby Clark

Northern Broadsides return to Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds this May with a witty new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ great Northern novel Hard Times. Imagine a world where imagination is forbidden, Coketown is such a place. A sweeping tale of supressed love, seduction and social mores; peopled with the sharply observed and exaggerated characters that Dickens is celebrated for.

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 dark satanic mills are interrupted by the colour and vibrancy of Sleary’s Circus coming to town.

This colourful new production has been adapted by Deborah McAndrew and directed by Northern Broadsides resident director Conrad Nelson, featuring set design by Dawn Allsopp. Speaking on the new production, Conrad 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.”

Hard Times will be at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds from Wed 16 – Sat 19 May.  

Tickets: £26 – £10.50, and are on sale at the Box Office, call 01284 769505, book online at or visit the theatre in person.