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Review: Little Women at HOME is ‘incredibly heartwarming’

In Brigid Lamour’s heartwarming production of Little Women at HOME, the March family's dynamics unfold effortlessly, capturing the essence of Louisa May Alcott's classic with a fresh perspective and delightful performances.

Greta Gerwig’s new take on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women gave cinema audiences the chance to revisit this classic and view it as a fresh text.

It was not as sentimental as previous versions and every character, piece of dialogue and plot development felt very natural.

Some previous adaptations lent heavily towards a Walton-style set-up and felt designed to jerk your tears every five minutes.

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

Brigid Lamour’s production for HOME with Pitlochry Festival Theatre places the audience into the warmth of the March family household, with Ruari Murchison’s beautiful contrasting set design featuring trees and a huge red curtain.

A Warm Set Design

Jo March (Rachael McAllister) is torn between writing for a living and writing what she knows – from her heart.

The warmth of this set design versus the draw of something more fulfilling outside of this house, works wonderfully well. It is immediate and sets up the entire story with no words required.

Abigail March (Kacey Ainsworth), known as ‘Marmee’ by her loving daughters is stoic, loving and incredibly charitable.

And, as she donates food to those less well-off, her daughters realise that the desert they thought was theirs is to be given away.

Instead of coming across as mawkish and sweetly sentimental, these scenes are comedic, as the daughters oblige but Amy (Julia Brown) grabs something sweet from the beautiful basket and devours it in secret before she ‘donates.’

Meg (Jessica Brydges) realises that what she is seeking is an extension of the family that she loves and Beth (Meg Chaplin) sees how precious life is, when she is at her most fragile.

Aunt March (Susan Twist) provides the saltiness that a story like his one requires; not Grinch-like, just honest and sees things as they are in her head and then says it, with no filter.

And Amy is the Marmite character who Greta Gerwig reframed and here, she does change and feels less brattish.

An Excellent Production

In many ways, this production feels like something that the Library Theatre would have staged before they joined up with the Cornerhouse Cinema to become HOME, the arts hub as you see it today.

And that is not a bad thing, as there is something incredibly heartwarming, familiar and welcoming, as you watch the plot unfold.

It feels effortless, but never simply going through the motions or copying what has come before.

There are plenty of poignant moments, which never feel sweetly sentimental to rot your teeth, there is something delicately beautiful at play here.

The performances are pitched to perfection, as these characters grow and change, like the trees that surround the family home but they remain grounded and loyal.

Anne Marie Casey’s incredible adaption

Anne-Marie Casey’s adaptation captures the essence of the book but never feels too tied to the source material; it has a life of its own.

Kacey Ainsworth is the lynchpin of this family and her strength and fragility is often explored at the same time.

When she leaves Jo to get to the train home, she simply scuttles off quickly, but Ainsworth manages to show you the internal struggles of this character through her beautifully nuanced body language.

Rachael McAllister has Jo’s inner strength but it is her struggle that she conveys with absolute conviction; we see the side of her that no one else really sees until she breaks.

Jessica Brydges grounds Beth, as never simply settling for less, and Julia Brown’s Amy grows and blossoms before your very eyes.

She remains flawed but feels as if she is in Jo’s shadow, hence she tries to take some of her light.

Meg Chaplin avoids playing Beth is simply pure and angelic, she does not want to leave but her acceptance is rooted in her pain.

Susan Twist captures Aunt March’s determination and her money, with every move she makes and her comic timing is understated, as opposed to over the top.

Tom Richardson’s Prof Baher is poor but he offers Jo hope and motivation and the famous snowy scene is done so well here.

And Richardson excels here, as he avoids tugging your heartstrings repeatedly, and instead, he eases you into this scene and then he breaks you.

Daniel Francis-Swaby almost dances across the stage as Laurie, bringing a Bambi-like quality as he enters the March household, as they giggle and fuss. He embraces the comedic elements too.

Kate Bonney’s lighting brings the feel of Christmas to the piece but also puts the spotlight on these remarkable women.

They are far from ‘little’ and Brigid Lamour’s production is faithful without simply repeating what has gone before. It dances to its own tune.

Little Women at HOME Tickets

Little Women is at HOME until 23rd December and can be booked here

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