Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s forthcoming production of Hard Times draws parallels between Charles Dickens’ themes and the 19th century and the present day.
Hard Times is the story of fact-obsessed schoolmaster and politician, Mr Gradgrind, mill owner and banker, Josiah Bounderby, and their impact on the community of Coketown.
When a travelling circus comes to Coketown Gradgrind is obliged to admit a young girl whose father has abandoned her to his school. Sissy Jupe becomes a companion to his daughter, Louisa, who marries Bounderby, whilst Gradgrind’s son, Tom, gains employment at Bounderby’s bank.
Problems escalate when, trapped in a loveless marriage, Louisa is tempted by an affair and there’s a robbery at the bank. A looming feud between the mill workers and their employers leads to an unexpected death.
Chris Lawson, Associate Director, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, commented:
“Many of the themes explored in Hard Times are relevant today – the story could easily be set in present-day Oldham in one of the town’s now derelict factories. Our production is visually inspired by the red brick architecture around Oldham and nearby Manchester’s Northern Quarter and Ancoats. Old disused mills still remain, others have been reborn as modern-day places of commerce, where people still work for a minimum wage. The issues of low wages and ‘just about managing families’ are as current today as they were in the 1850s. The position of the arts in education continues to face challenges and conflict between facts and imagination remains. It is 2017 and yet Dickens is still relevant in our world where capitalism is in crisis and democracy hard to sustain.”
Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s production of Hard Times will feature a cast of seven actors playing 19 characters. The cast includes: William Travis, as Josiah Bounderby (who played the role of Mr Squires in the This Is England series) and Cliff Burnett as Mr Gradgrind, who last appeared in Oldham in the Coliseum’s Manchester Theatre Award nominated production of The Pitmen Painters.
First published in 1854 as a series in Dickens’ weekly magazine, Household Words, Hard Times uses its characters and stories to expose issues of class divides, politics and education. Set in a fictional northern mill-town, it was the only of Dickens’ novels that had no scenes in London.
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