Here, Stuart Davies, the director of our show, offers an insight into how and why we chose to work on Hard Times
At the beginning of our adaptation of Hard Times, Sarah, a weaver, invites the audience into Josiah Bounderby’s cotton mill in Coketown.
“Coketown, 1850. In the dark heart of the industrial north-west of England. Halifax (or Bradford, or Leeds, or Bury, or Settle) 2013. Things have changed a lot in 160 years haven’t they? The relations between the classes, the gulf between rich and poor, ideas about education, they’ve altered out of all recognition haven’t they? Well haven’t they? And in 1850 the government was made up entirely of very rich men. That must be different in your day”.
People sometimes ask how we choose which plays to do.
Last summer Paper Zoo was doing just that. We call it planning the future programme and the process largely involves sitting in someone’s front room and saying “What shall we do next?” Then we fix the date of the next meeting and go home. But somewhere in between the seed of creating a play linking past and present lives had been planted.
It was during this period of reflection that I found myself shouting at the radio. Do you ever do that? I do it quite often. I should probably see someone about it. I was doing it one evening after listening to a politician explaining why it was necessary for poor people to pay for the deficit. Then later that night I was playing music (to calm down!) and by chance put on an old Steeleye Span album when I was struck by the title of a traditional song, Hard Times of Old England. The politician on the radio came back to mind - Hard Times for some, but not for the likes of you, mate.
And of course, Hard Times is a novel by Dickens. It’s about an educational philosophy which concentrates on factual knowledge and crushes imagination. Secretary of State Michael Gove has obviously read it and got the wrong end of the stick. It’s also about economic hardship and working people forever paying the price. The link between past and present lives.
The next step was to write a script, based on the book. Dickens provided one or two quite good lines. Our play is an adaptation so if you know the book you will spot the differences. We hope you enjoy it.