I have learned something this evening; that Louisa May Alcott wrote her classic tale of the Four March Sisters in 1860s America in two volumes. While they have more recently be published in the USA in one volume, as the author intended, the have been commonly split in this country, with the second volume being given the [publisher’s] title of ‘Good Women’.
This is relevant to my review of the Swan Theatre Amateur Company’s spirited production of Little Women as, being familiar with the plot of the whole story, I went into the theatre armed with tissues, and prepared for the well-known tragic moment late on in the book. But in this adaptation, by Peter Clapham, the story concludes at the end of Alcott’s first volume, with the return of the Patriarch, the happy engagement of Meg and John, and most importantly Beth’s recovery from Scarlet Fever. No tissues needed when watching this Little Women then. Just a very warm, cosy feeling, as you spend two and a half hours in the company of this delightfully happy family.
Curtis Fulcher’s production does well setting the mood, and the set (Fulcher and Andy Hares) is very appropriately and practically designed; having the bottom of the stairs visible was a very nice touch.
The characters were all very well drawn. The eldest, calmest sister Meg (Nicola Theron), the youngest, sweetest sister Beth (Samantha O’Byrne), the playful, teasing Amy (Poppy Cooksey-Heyfron), and, of course, the helter-skelter tomboy Jo (Emily Catherine). All four sisters were distinct, and yet immediately close as a family should be. As befitting her character’s place in the centre of the story, Catherine’s performance was the strongest, and always held the stage with assurity and excellent physical presence. Her unspoken actions when she shows her disapproval of Meg and John’s relationship were very well projected.
Good support came from Nicholas Snowdon as the playful but loyal Laurie, Jane Wooton as the loving cook Hannah, and especially the scene-stealing Michelle Whitfield as the hard-hearted Aunt March.
If the adaptation feels a little slow and genteel in Act 1 (no fault of the performers), it certainly moves along with much more drama after the break. The cast rose to the challenges well, and the production was very warmly received by the large audience in the Swan Theatre.
Little Women runs until 20 February at Swan Theatre, Worcester.
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