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Little Wimmin by Figs in Wigs at Battersea Arts Centre’s Grand Hall

The much-beloved Figs in Wigs return to London with intent. This take on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott takes you for a ride, swings you around, puts a brick in the washing machine and tells you what’s what in the world of cocktails.

Little Wimmin by Figs in Wigs - Credit Jemima Yong.
Little Wimmin by Figs in Wigs – Credit Jemima Yong.

Figs in Wigs are a group of bitingly self-aware clowns who spend two hours disrupting and mocking what you think you know about pretty much anything. Why they are doing this, whom they are mocking, and what is meant after all is said and done remains undecided. And perhaps this is a weakness of the show; a certain degree of absurdity is crucial; however, when the is a lack of continuity and flow, what little sense or meaning the show can be lost.

We walk in the epic setting that is Battersea Arts Centre; the curtain is pulled back to reveal five flying wigs (much like those weird levitating things in Trafalgar Square). They pontificate in a mock intellectual fashion about Little Women; jokes are sharp, well written and delivered with charisma that wins the audience over instantly.

From there, we move to Massachusetts in a pantomime style parody of the titular novel. It is a performance laced with irony, and the jokes are natural. The March family’s claimed poverty is hung out to dry; all end up drunk beyond belief and eventually transform into a manifestation of their defining character trait.

Clowning can be the sharpest, most playful and exciting form of comedy. And crucial to this brilliance is the painfulness of drawn-out jokes and forcing jokes down the audience. Little Wimmin has many moments where this is done well. Although some moments are electric with dry humour, occasionally, the easy joke is taken while a better one that would require the performers to work hard is dropped.

Little Wimmin is a series of repetitive, overdone jokes and is excellent at this. At the heart of clowning is hilarious failure and overworking jokes to the point that they become hilarious. And each scene from Little Wimmin is excellent; the jokes are slick, well-thought-out and expertly executed, but the lack of continuity means that I am not left with something. Aside from some well-timed call-backs, the scenes don’t knit together, undermining the building comedy of the piece.

That being said, it is ridiculous and brilliantly entertaining, the ensemble’s performance is stellar, and they hold the audience masterfully. I am not sure my Christmas rewatch of Little Women will feel the same, but I hope this show hasn’t broken my love for the novel. The Figs in Wigs as performers are a testament to audience torment and demonstrate the brilliance of clowning. It is easy to love and entertaining from start to finish.

4 stars

Review by Tom Carter

Wild, irreverent and cosmically comical, Little Wimmin dismantles the traditional canon in the face of contemporary calamity to ask, “what’s changed, for better or for worse?”. 150 years after the publication of Alcott’s novel are we any closer to gender equality? And if we’re all going to be underwater in 12 years, does is even matter?

The female company of five transform the novel into a darkly funny, thought-provoking and surreal show. Prepare to laugh at the traditions of theatre and poke fun at people’s obsession with ‘the classics’ as The Figs use the story as their very own trojan horse, turning it on its head and mutating it into an unrecognizable cartoon catastrophe about climate change, astrology and the infinite nature of the universe.

LITTLE WIMMIN SHOW DETAILS
Title: Little Wimmin
Artist: Figs in Wigs
Location: Grand Hall
Dates: 20-23 Oct, 25–28 Oct 2021

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