Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

Little Women
by  Louisa May Alcott   adapted by Emma Reeves  directed by Lyn Chatterton

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, December 2006

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A Review of Little Women
by Julie Petrucci

Billed by Bawds as 'The perfect festive family alternative to pantomime', Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves stays reasonably faithful to the famous book.

Set in New England during the 1860s, the March sisters - romantic Meg, fiery Jo, shy Beth and wilful Amy - grow up in genteel poverty against the backdrop of the American Civil War. With their father away at war, the four girls must become 'Little Women'. Tomboy Jo would rather be fighting alongside her father - but they're all facing their battles. Meg is torn between her rich friends and a penniless tutor. Laurie, the handsome boy next door, wants Jo to love him, Amy wants Laurie to notice her, and Beth just wishes they could all stay together forever.  We see how the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are, with traumas, sadness and happiness as they come to terms with how the effects of war and growing up to be "young ladies" enters their daily lives.

It is a long time since I have seen so many strong female performances from one cast.  In fact I am afraid the six men were totally overshadowed by the ladies.  The March Girls had us gripped within the first five minutes with their beautiful characterisations. In particular Nicola Derwent as the tomboy Jo gave an excellent performance getting the right balance between the frustration of not being a boy able to go to fight in the war with her father; her aggression in not being successful with her writing as quickly as she would like, and her love for her family.  All the mood swings which come with growing up were there and handled beautifully.  A joy of a performance.  Kimberley Tongish's Meg was lovely, the one all the boys would like to marry.  An excellent and skilful performance.  In the hands of such a confident and talented young actress Hannah Smith's Amy was pitched just right, you could slap her one minute and hug her the next.  Beth is probably the most difficult role of the four but Richenda Collins made it her own with some lovely touching moments which bought tears to the eyes.  With Rosemary Eason also pulling at the heart strings with a wonderful portrayal as Mrs March the men didn't stand much of a chance of making an impact.

Colin Richardson (Theodore Laurence) has obvious potential but his performance was patchy.  His scenes with Jo were excellent and if the remainder of his performance had been on that level it would have been impressive. Michael Comfort looked exactly right as John Brooke but his performance was very stilted.  I was willing him to relax into the role which should have been tailor made for him.  Mark Bak and Ray Maillou as Ned Moffat and Fred Vaughn respectively, did all that was required of them but again were overshadowed by the performances of Rachel George as the snooty and unkind Sallie Gardiner and Alexandra Fye, condescending as Belle Moffat.  Adam Augustyn played Professor Bhaer with great warmth and humour - no wonder Jo was attracted to him whilst Colin Lawrence, as Mr March, handled his on/off role with his usual expertise.  We had some lovely moments from Margaret Clark as Aunt March who you wouldn't dare argue with, and Mavis Perkins as Aunt Carol - someone just has to do Arsenic and Old Lace soon!

All in all this was a great night out.  Lyn Chatterton's staging of this play with its numerous changes of location was extremely imaginative, using different levels and atmospheric lighting to depict areas and moods.  The costumes were lovely (although one or two of the wigs were a bit suspect) and the acting was excellent, even if the accents drifted around a bit.   I particularly liked the very clever final scene/curtain call.  I am sure that many of those in the audience came to see this play because they love the book and they would not have gone home disappointed.  It was a clever choice by Bawds for their 'family' slot.