March sisters heading to Roman Theatre in St Albans in OVO's new adaptation of Little Women
- Credit: Pavel Gonevski
Greta Gerwig directed the 2019 Oscar-nominated movie version of Little Women starring a stellar cast of Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, and Meryl Streep.
Steph Allison and Amy Connery co-direct OVO's new take on Louisa May Alcott's classic 1868 coming-of-age novel at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans this August.
Little Women chronicles the lives of the March sisters – Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth.
Allison and Connery, whose ‘Scissor Sisters’ was a smash hit at OVO’s recent Maltings Theatre season, have written a new script in collaboration with playwright Sophie Swithenbank to bring a new and modern outlook to the story while retaining the novel’s enormous, global appeal.
They've added live music, movement and physical theatre to bring the story to life.
Stephanie Allison says: “Little Women has resonated with both of us for years; the themes of family, love and coming of age Alcott explored over a century ago still exist today.
"At the time Little Women was rare in that the story centred around women and gave space to their journey; although modern expectations for women have changed a great deal often they’re still expected to occupy the traditional role of mother and caregiver.
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"As Jo and her sisters navigate growing up, the challenges they face and overcome are ones many of our audience will recognise or have been through.”
Jo, the second eldest of the four 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 siblings discover that growing up is sometimes very hard to do.
Fans around the world will know that Alcott wrote two separate books about the family: Little Women and Good Wives.
While she wrote movingly and entertainingly about the lives of her heroines, particularly Jo, she was eventually pressurised by her publishers to marry everyone off.
Amy Connery adds: “We can’t help but wonder how Little Women might have ended had Alcott not been under such pressure to marry Jo off – it led us to adjust the relationship between Jo March and Professor Bhaer.
"We were also really interested in the strictly structured society where every step was planned out for women in general and in our production we explore how the March sisters challenge what society expects of them as they grow into women.”
The St Albans cast stars Katie Friedli Walton as Jo March, Lucy Crick as Meg, Jane Withers as Amy, and Anastasia Raymond as Beth.
Stephanie says: “We can’t wait for Roman Theatre audiences to see our production of Little Women – the stage is vast! It’s a very exciting space and lends itself to much movement and audience connection.”
Amy adds: “We also think having a fast-paced performance with music and movement in the way we do feels very magical in the outdoor space.
"Roman Theatre audiences are always so welcoming and wonderful and we can't wait to show everyone what we've created!”
OVO artistic director Adam Nichols is also looking forward to the production's opening night on August 3.
“Little Women is a great story, it’s well known to audiences of all ages and I can’t wait to see how Stephanie and Amy bring their physical theatre expertise to this very contemporary 19th century story.
"The soundtrack features some of my personal favourites including Fleetwood Mac, Talking Heads, and the Cranberries."
Little Women runs from Wednesday, August 3 to Sunday, August 14. Book tickets at ovo.org.uk