I WAS somehow under the mistaken impression that Little Women was a sentimental nineteenth century novel that had little relevance to today's society.
That it has endured for almost 150 years should have told me that it is much deeper than that; telling, as it does, the story of four sisters as they navigate the trials and tragedy of war, while hosting their own ambitions to break free from the confines of perceived gender or societal expectations of the time.
Penned by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women was a breakthrough novel when first published in 1868. Running until March 2 at The Lyric Theatre in Belfast, Anne-Marie Casey’s adaptation, is beautifully set mostly in the March sisters' household, with the clever use of light and the plaintive tap of piano keys taking us through the changing of the seasons as the Civil War rages in Virginian battlefields, while the March girls carry on their domestic chores while guarding their own hopes and aspirations.
Revolving around ambitious writer Jo, who is loosely based on the author and played by the excellent Marty Breen, we are given a window into the frustrations of many women of the time. Strong-willed, Jo feels hemmed in by social norms and expectations. Her relationship with her sisters is tested the most by her annoying youngest sister Amy (Tara Cush), while Meg (Ruby Campbell) and Beth (Maura Bird) have their own journeys to take. Interwoven into all this is Marmee (Jo Donnelly) – the girls’ mother – and the sisters' friendships with the two main male characters Laurie (Cillian Lenaghan) and John Brooke (Shaun Blaney).
Bringing a novel to the stage can be a hit-and-miss affair at the best of times, but the cast and crew pull it off at The Lyric. Many of those in the audience were aficionados of Little Women – whether the novel or the movies – and they left the theatre well sated with this production.
Little Women runs at The Lyric Threatre until March 2. Tickets are available here