Dickens with ladders and a plank

Creative Cow and Dickens.
Creative Cow and Dickens.

It’s amazing what you can do with four actors, six ladders and a plank. It seems, in the right hands, you can recreate Charles Dickens’ angry indictment of all the cruelties and outrages of the Industrial Revolution.

Devon-based professional theatre company Creative Cow promise a scintillating adaptation of the classic novel Hard Times on their autumn tour.

They play The Hawth Studio, Crawley, on November 8-9 at 7.45pm (01293 539418) and the

Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, on November 10-12 at 8pm (01483 443900). They are also doing a free talk in Crawley library on November 9 at 2pm.

Director Amanda Knott said: “It’s a great adaptation for just four actors playing all those amazing Dickensian characters. They share them out, this amazing range of characters.

“We have to do it all in a very stylistic fashion. You can’t do it for real. It would have to be a massive, massive epic production. We do it in a very simple way. We do it with six ladders and a plank. It’s a bit like ladderworld rather than leatherworld, and we hope it is entertaining to watch. It’s amazing what you can do with a ladder. You can go up it. You can go down it. You can lie it on its side. And a plank can be a bed or a bench.”

And so they bring to life a great story: “A very tough story. It’s not all sweetness and light. It’s Dickens taking a very tough attitude towards the injustices and the inequalities of the Industrial Revolution - that allowed Mr Bounderby to become a self-made man and make a huge amount of money and that allowed him to exploit so many people. Dickens is pretty cross about it all.”

Inevitably there are a few cheesy moments - moments of great sentimentality: “You can’t eliminate those. You have just got to temper them. You have got to find the truth in them. You can’t play it cheesy, but you can play it aware that it is just on the edge of sentiment.

“But fortunately, it is a very good adaptation. There is no question about that. With four actors, you have got to find the essence of it all.”