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Little Women @ HOME review – timeless coming-of-age tale

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Featured image: HOME/Press


There are few stories that inspire a festive feeling quite like Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. The timeless coming-of-age tale follows four sisters on their passage into adulthood, each with their own individual spirit guiding them. In Anne-Maire Casey’s adaptation of the classic, the story is transformed into an exciting theatrical experience. 

The tale sees the March sisters, on the brink of adulthood, navigate their passage into womanhood in New England during the 1860s, amidst the tumultuous civil war. Their fortunes have taken a turn for the worse and, with their father away at war, the girls are united in their devotion to one another throughout hard times. 

There is no lack of relatable characteristics in tomboy Jo, tragic Beth, beautiful Meg and spoiled Amy. In this adaptation, Rachel McAllister plays a precocious and difficult Jo. Portrayed as bratty rather than headstrong, she is hard to like. Her independent spirit is lost to her constant mistakes. 

Brigid Larmour’s set design is donned with trees, despite the focus being on the domestic. The set design seldom changes, as the sisters’ independent lives are always contained in the context of their home. The focus of the sisterly bond that unites them is lost to this and we see little reinforcement of their relationships. 

The second half of the play is far more visually thrilling, taking place in New York City, where Jo, having left home, travels to in hopes of finding her writer’s voice. Large lit towers fill the backdrop as we are introduced to her Professor Bhaer. The development of their relationship is paralleled by Amy’s European travels. It is difficult to see the progression of any romance for the sisters; their budding relationships appear unemotional and seem to resolve quickly. 

The highlight of the show is, by far, Susan Twist, who provides comedic relief as Aunt March. While not typically the pierrot of the play, a pantomime is made of this character. Her elaborate dresses and scolding of the girls is lighthearted and far removed from the March family unit. 

Tragically ill Beth is lost too easily to the plot and appears to act as more of a device than a character. Her death is executed without sentiment, disappointingly unmoving. 

Little Women contains multitudes, however it’s a difficult tale to bring new life to. Where Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation successfully grants a modern maturity to the girls, Anne Marie Casey emphasises the childlike innocence of not-yet women. Although hitting fewer poignant moments than other versions, this adaptation does as best as it can in telling this vast story on stage.

A particular standout of the show is the reoccuring, harmonised take on ‘Silent Night’ heard throughout, which fosters a warm and festive atmosphere. For those seeking an uplifting play with low emotional stakes, Little Women is a pleasant experience. 

HOME is an independent and multifaceted venue. For a joyful and festive winter evening out, there is no better place to catch one of the Christmas season productions or a bit of cinema.

You can catch Little Women until Spring 2024, or check out other productions at: https://homemcr.org/

About the author / 

Jess Berry

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