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Hard Times

Lancashire, the 1840s: when her father, a circus performer, mysteriously disappears, young Sissy Jupe is offered a place at Mr. Gradgrind’s school – and a job in Gradgrind’s household as a servant. Torn between two worlds, Sissy decides to leave the circus behind and start a new life. Read more …

But in Gradgrind’s school - and home - there is no place for imagination or play. Gradgrind worships only reason and logic. And Sissy and Gradgrind’s children, Louisa and Tom, are raised to distrust “fancy” and believe only in cold, hard fact . . .

When she reaches adulthood, Louisa catches the eye of bombastic mill owner and self-made man, Josiah Bounderby. Gradgrind sees many advantages to an alliance with a man of such wealth and influence. And much to Sissy’s disgust, the beautiful but passionless Louisa agrees to the match.

Tom, however, is jealous of his sister’s apparent good fortune and longs for a similar life of wealth and ease. So when a wave of unrest sweeps the town, Tom seizes an opportunity to line his pockets – and ensure that someone far less fortunate than he takes the blame.

A thrilling, moving and ultimately uplifting story of betrayal, sacrifice and redemption, Dickens’ great novel of the triumph of the imagination over the brutality of the new industrial age is brought vividly to life in Stephen Jeffreys’ magnificent adaptation.

The critical consensus

Prenton’s production manages to build up some momentum, despite the somewhat stop-start structure of Jeffreys’s script.

Mark Brown, Scottish Stage, 12/09/2016

Has that same quality of quiet craftsmanship, tightly focussed on the telling of a vital tale.

****(*)Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman, 12/09/2016

Though there is plenty of humour to counterbalance the scenes of hardship (including the tragic death of the mill worker Stephen Blackpool, played by Mark Elstob), the cast here wisely resists slipping into the kind of caricature that can push Dickens adaptations perilously close to pantomime.

****(*)Allan Radcliffe, 16/09/2016

Where and when?

Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Pitlochry from Monday August 1, 2016, until Friday October 14, 2016. More info:

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