Hard Times

Norwich Playhouse

> Norwich Playhouse

It's dwindling into Dickens time again. Every year, it's the same – the cuckoo choruses in the spring and blackbirds in summer, but Dickens carols in the cold.

And you might have thought that Hard Times, with its sultry repressed desires, would have offered you no surprises as autumn evening fare. But the story of Louisa Gradgrind's love for her brother was overshadowed by the revolutionary smoke of the industrial chimney pots.

As director Catriona Craig conceived it, this was as much a story of social injustice as of personal tragedy.

Not only were the individual characters dwarfed by the factories, strikes and turmoil that surrounded them, suggested by a wealth of grey and brown flags and stony flats in Nick Hardwick and Clare Bousfield's design, but they were also crushed by time itself.

The play was set in the past and the present at the same time, showing how helpless we have proved over the centuries to change the unfair systems we make for ourselves and inciting us to push for change in our own time.

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An energetic and fresh vision of the book, making free use of ideas from that master of the politically inspired performance, Brecht, who had something of the enthusiasm for reform which Dickens must have had as a journalist, witnessing moral injustice first hand.