THE Castle Players are busy rehearsing for their annual winter tour, a creative interpretation of Charles Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop, adapted for the stage by Northumberland Theatre Company’s Stewart Howson.

This year will see the company visiting ten local community centres and village halls to liven up the dark winter nights, with the opening night at The Witham, Barnard Castle.

Audiences will follow the story of orphaned Little Nell and her ailing grandfather on a journey they are forced to undertake when their shop is seized and they are deep in debt. In their efforts to escape the evil clutches of the loathsome moneylender Daniel Quilp, they encounter a lively collection of Dickensian characters along the way who both help and hinder.

The themes the play deals with are very relevant to the modern day with the contrasts of life and death being woven into a backdrop of lechery, greed, and power. A cast of eight will bring the characters to life very much in the spirit and style of a travelling theatre troupe, each playing multiple characters with a stage set and props that will also challenge the imagination inviting the audience to step into different worlds.

“It is very much an ensemble piece, with storytelling through physical creation of images and characters” said director Gordon Duffy-McGhie.

“Expect a very versatile wardrobe, a crocodile, drums, bells and whistles, and a colourful array of hats! It’s a great challenge for both the people behind the scenes and each of the actors, who may play a dodgy card gambler in one scene, and a Brummie barge boater in the next. The same actor plays both Nell and Quilp reflecting the struggle between good and evil which is a central theme of the play.”

  • The production opens at The Witham, Barnard Castle on Saturday, January 18 (tickets online at; by telephone 01833-631107; or in person at The Witham, Barnard Castle) before touring.
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