As theatre productions go this is a memorable, magical experience filled with heart and love and so many tiny thoughtful details, that I’m not sure a review can do it justice, but I’ll try.
The Roman Theatre of Verulamium is an open-air theatre set in fields on the edge of St Albans, and OVO have taken it over for the summer with productions as varied as War of the Worlds, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Rent.
Little Women is their penultimate production and it’s a joyful, theatrical highlight. It’s a gorgeous mix of storytelling and physical theatre with carefully chosen songs (from Cranberries to Bowie to Taylor Swift) all blending together to produce a heart-stopping show. Bowler hats off to the directors Steph Allinson and Amy Connery and to the Musical Director, Tom Cagnoli for finding a perfect balance of nuance, emotion and narrative drive.
There’s some inventive playing with the storyline, although for the most part, the play stays very true to the novel, following the lives and loves of the March sisters and Jo’s search for a meaningful life of adventure and integrity, whilst fighting the constraints of her gender and the times. The cast are perfection, they all deliver with such commitment and tenderness that it really does feel like spending time with a complex, loving family. In the musical numbers especially there’s no jarring ‘musical theatre moment’, rather the songs flow naturally with the story or scene. I particularly loved the use of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide.’
The entire cast are brilliant, so I’m reluctant to choose favourites, but the scenes between Jo March Katie Friedll Walton) and Professor Francis (Faith Turner) are particularly heart-warming, but then so are the March family scenes and the hesitant romances of both Meg March (Lucy Crick) and Mr Brooke (James Douglas) and Amy March (Jane Withers) and Laurie (Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson). But this is very much an ensemble piece and everyone more than earns their place and in the rare few moments when the whole cast is together, they’re spellbinding.
Every second of this production feels sewn through with creativity and tenderness, from the ice lake scene to Beth’s illness, to Jo’s final moment of revelation about her true feelings and desires.
This is simply beautiful theatre, there’s something timeless about both the story and the setting, about the desire to fit in without betraying who you are, about the pursuit of love without the end of independence and freedom.
Go, take the whole family, take your friends, enjoy a drink at the hillside bar, relish the live band and cry a little for the March girls as the sun sets, and fall a little in love with both the surroundings and some heartbreakingly beautiful performances.
Review by Roz Wyllie
Jo, the second eldest of the March daughters and an aspiring writer, receives yet another rejection from a publisher. Her friend, Professor Bhaer, tells her she can do better by making her stories more personal.
Begrudgingly, Jo weaves the story of how she and her sisters – Meg, the eldest, who’s on the brink of love, sweet-natured Beth who always puts others first and Amy, the youngest and most precocious – grew up in America.
Even though money is short, times are tough and their father is away, their infectious sense of fun sweeps everyone up in their adventures – including Laurie, the boy next door. And through sisterly squabbles and tragic losses, the sisters discover that growing up is sometimes very hard to do.
Louisa May Alcott’s timeless and captivating book is brought to life in a brand new adaptation, perfect for all the family. This classic story embodies the complete theatrical experience, guaranteeing laughter, tears and a lifting of the spirit.
3rd-14th August 2022
Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
Directed by Steph Allison and Amy Connery
Presented by OVO