Little Women @ Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Director Brigid Larmour and playwright Anne-Marie Casey bring new life to this new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's timeless classic

Review by Dominic Corr | 05 Aug 2022
  • Little Women at Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Written with honesty at the forefront, there’s little to question about the secret to the success of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the somewhat semi-autobiographical tale of four sisters as they come to terms with their places and aspirations in life.

The story follows four young women exiting their teenage years and beginning life as adults. Throughout the text, family is paramount for Meg, Jo, Beth, and youngest sibling Amy. Upholding the novel’s original voice in her adapation, Anne-Marie Casey infuses a sense of contemporary respect within director Brigid Larmour’s new staging for the Pitlochry Festival Theatre without drawing aspects into the present moment or altering attitudes and language.

Reinforcing this, Larmour maintains a delicate balance in both rebuking and accepting domesticity without besmirching the choices Meg and Amy make. Where novels of the time often relegate women to horrific marriages, destitution, or death through some wistful disease, Larmour retains the combative nature of Jo’s wants, without positioning the alternative as a poor choice.

Anna Fordham, Jessica Brydges, Meg Chaplin, and Rachael McAllister bring theatrical energy to the tale. They infuse their performances as the four sisters with a sense of characterisation which initially seems surface level – either lacking a forthrightness or depth – but grows and does a fine job, particularly Fordham’s evolution from petulant and spoiled Amy to a more complex and self-assured woman.

Ruari Murchison's set raises peculiar issues for a show which places some weight on domesticity, sometimes losing itself in the wildness of design. But some cast members make fine use of the set; charming and only a tad roguish, Richie Spencer’s aloof Laurie is a bundle of initially self-controlled energy to offset the tight-buttoned Tom Richardson doubling as both Brooke and Bhaer. The limited cast of eight work well with one another. Spencer, Fordham, and McAllister convey a sincerity in the balance of friendship and matters of the heart, while Deirdre Davis makes for a formidably taloned Aunt March.

Together with a strong cast, Larmour’s decision not to villainise the more antiquated elements of the source material makes for an engaging production which will evoke warmth for those familiar with the novel, and perhaps lead those just discovering it to search out why Little Women has stood the test of time and countless adaptations.

Little Women, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, until 29 Sep