Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Little Women

Swan Theatre Amateur Company,

Swan Theatre, Worcester


Maybe it’s because the popular novel by American author Louisa May Alcott has been eroded by the many film and TV versions over the years, but it’s hard not glaze over when someone mentions the title of Little Women.

With so many versions framing the story as a cute romance or period drama the real tragedy of the March family has been lost.  

There is though a great wealth of commentary on duty, family love, and social gratitude and fortunately this version directed by Curtis Fulcher goes a long way to developing those issues in a more realistic way.

The story details principally the lives of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Set at the time of the American Civil war the sisters are now left alone with their mother and nanny after their father, in his retirement years, has enlisted as a minister to help the war effort.

The first act spends most of its time developing the characters and the war seems a long way off with the girls wanting for nothing and dreaming of society balls, theatre outings and romance.

In the second act the bitter overtones of real life begin to have an impact. While there is still an air of   decorum and good breeding, things take a turn for the worse. The father is taken seriously ill still away from home, money becomes scarce, there is death and illness through scarlet fever and sibling rivalry spills over into vandalistic spite.

The original story is based on Alcott’s own sisters and perhaps Jo the aspiring writer, casthere played by Emily Catherine with great deal of spirit is modelled on Alcott herself. Jo is an independent soul, a blossoming writer and prepared to do anything to serve and support her sick father even cutting off and selling her treasured locks to help her mother attend to him on his sickbed.

Poppy Cooksey-Heyfron, Emily Catherine, Janet Bright, Nicola Theron, Jane Wootton, Samantha O’Byrne

Meg played by Nicola Theron is the young upright society lady, yet forceful enough to realise wealth and money are not the reasons to marry. Her eventual suitor is Mr Brooke played by Andrew Bowden, and even though poor his noble qualities and care of her father are the reasons for her growing love for him.

The fiery Amy played by Poppy Cooksey-Heyfron is a ball of energy and possesses a streak of jealously for her older sisters’ accomplishments. Her scenes with Nicholas Snowdon, who nicely captured the friendly and generous neighbor Laurie, were some of the most effective. Last of the sisters is Beth played demurely by Samantha O’Byrne. Beth is the meekest of the four and yet is the one who faces possible death through contracting scarlet fever.

Completing the household are the mother Mrs March, Marmee, played by Janet Bright  and the Nanny Hannah, Jane Wooton, who both show a strong sense of duty and domesticity yet all played with a feminine guile. Bright, incidentally, played Jo when STAC last staged the play in 1996.

Michele Whitfield was Aunt March the overbearing and feared relative whose `old money ways’ come into question.

The men obviously are very much in a support role in this play but a mention has to go to Frank Welbourne as the elderly neighbour Mr Laurence who himself has faced personal tragedy. Then finally Tony Childs as the recovered Mr March, arriving home in time for the Christmas festivities.

Itu’s a delightful ensemble performance and the play highlights a time when family values were simpler. Amusingly the two younger girls Amy and Beth are coaxed into an early evening bedtime by their mother with the promise of just cookies and milk.

It’s easy to dismiss elements like that as laughable and view this story as being to quaint for a modern audience. However, it is still a highly enjoyable performance highlighting that duty and support of each other at times of crisis are still highly valuable qualities to possess.

The play was performed on an impressive set and featured some nice costumes many made by director himself. When you get past opening scenes of ` feverish girlish joy’ you enter a tale of an old world family affair that will make you hanker for some of the simpler qualities of gratitude that we seem to nowadays have lost.

To 20-02-16.

Jeff Grant


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