Little Women

Mon 20th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Mel Melville

at 10:47 on 23rd Aug 2012

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Any production that begins with the entire cast beautifully singing the hymn ‘In the bleak mid-winter’, promises to be a good one. The cast wear magnificently crafted costumes to represent the mid-nineteenth century. If you are familiar with this play then you absolutely must watch it and if you have never read or seen the film or play, then look no further. This play not only portrays picturesque family relationships but it also takes you on a journey filled with hopes and dreams, rivalry, jealousy, love and misunderstanding. The four sisters portray their relationships tremendously with the characterisation being simply brilliant. Each sibling is ever so different with boisterous Jo and her far-fetched imagination; Amy and her desire to be an artist; Meg and her search for marriage and Beth, the little one that cares not for ambition but for her sweet little doll.

Much of the play is told through short sharp scenes that are narrated by the mother writing a letter to the father who is away in the American Civil War. This adds another layer of emotion as the family are all waiting and hoping for their father to come home. Jo is played by Imogen Smart-Steel as an impatient, rough and wild young girl desperate to write and she steals the stage by being a delight to watch. Every character is completely believable dragging you into the depths of emotion when anything even remotely distressing happens. By the end of the play you are completely immersed in the lives of this fabulous story and although it takes a turn for the worse towards the end, eventually you will certainly be satisfied. Each character embarks on an important journey in their own way but the two that we closely follow are the lives of Amy (Amy de Roche) and Jo, two incredibly different young ladies that complement one another immensely on stage.

Several times the entire cast sing together and it is a lovely extra touch. The costumes are truly exquisite, the lighting is fast, varied and apt, the acting is outstanding, the scene changes are swift and the entire production is certainly one to watch. It is an enchanting adaptation of Little Women, performed by an extremely talented cast - a true pleasure to watch.

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Thomas Brada

at 01:01 on 24th Aug 2012

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Before I critique this often-charming production of 'Little Women', I have to emphasise and acknowledge that I am very much not the demographic for this kind of theatre. The multiple decade age gap between myself and the majority of the audience clearly supports this statement. However, it is the majority of the audience who are important to consider when reviewing this piece and it seemed to me like they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

The play itself follows the trials and tribulations which befall the New England March family both during and after the American Civil War, with particular emphasis given to the four daughters, Meg, Beth, Amy and Jo. The characters gradually matures as they are forced to grow up either because of time or circumstance. Each daughter is very much distinct from another with a whole set of different interests, inclinations and objectives. The daughter upon whom the production lends most focus is the somewhat brash and ballsy Jo, who tirelessly pursues a career as an author which can figuratively allow her to run free from the perceived constraints of her somewhat mundane hometown. While her other sisters get married or travel to Europe, the audience follow the trajectory of Jo's writing career, from her early childhood scribblings to her later work on a published and praised novel.

As I mentioned earlier, each daughter gradually matures throughout the production and the actresses manage to convey their ageing characters with confidence, if not with full credibility. In the space of an hour and a half, the daughters grow from girls to women, and the male figures in the play develop an increasing interest in the "blooming flowers." The intimate nature of the venue and the set complements the growing sense of intimacy between the various characters and it is no surprise when the girls start falling in love, left, right and centre!

Before I add my dose of criticism, I must acknowledge the impressive costuming, with all the girls garbed in pretty period dresses and endowed with impressive locks of curled hair, while the male actors gained credibility for their sterling efforts to cultivate dramatic-looking facial hair. However, the production itself is let down by a few key things. Some of the devices, such as the intermittent breaking out into song and the curious choice to use a recorded performance to represent the absent characters, feel rather contrived and clumsy. This clumsiness extends unfortunately to some of the actors themselves, who at times struggle slightly to fully hold together an authentic American accent. Finally, due to the nature of the venue, the director ought to take more consideration over the choreography; at various points my view of the principal action was inhibited by poor placement of the secondary characters in the scene.

Regardless of my criticism, I must return to my point at the very beginning. This production is just a little too sickly sweet for this particular cynic but that by no means indicates it's not for anyone else! For anyone who loves an epic and a massive dose of the melodramatic, 'Little Women' delivers in a large way on both fronts.

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