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Review: LITTLE WIMMIN, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Figs in Wigs bring their Louisa May Alcott adaptation to the Southbank Centre for WOW Festival London 2022

Review: LITTLE WIMMIN, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Review: LITTLE WIMMIN, Queen Elizabeth Hall When you think of Little Women, what probably springs to mind is a group of earnest young ladies in Massachusetts learning how to navigate the adult world - or, potentially, Joey's reaction to Beth getting sick when he reads the book in an episode of Friends. What you don't immediately think of is climate change and cocktails. Unless you're Figs in Wigs, that is.

Rachel Gammon, Suzanna Hurst, Sarah Moore, Rachel Porter, and Alice Roots have put together a show that combines elements of theatre, dance, comedy, and performance art to create a unique version of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel; visually striking and irreverent to the point of mockery, this show will leave an indelible mark in your brain.

As someone who is currently struggling through the book, this production does articulate a lot of my feelings about it so far - and fortunately I had read enough of it to be able to understand most of the references, such as limes, ice, and salt. Whilst it's right to celebrate any woman who managed to get their work published (and experience commercial success), that doesn't mean the work itself has to be put on a pedestal and never be subject to criticism and reinterpretation under the modern gaze.

The show begins with a twenty-minute introduction and overview from the company, offering a bit of insight into what we are about to experience, as well as some key bits of information about the book. This primer is definitely welcome, as you can think back to it to understand some of the more 'out there' moments in the show - following this section with a twenty-minute interval, however, does feel a little bit wasteful. Obviously there are practical reasons for a break of some kind, but it's slightly unsettling after really getting into that first part.

Once it restarts, you're lulled into a false sense of security and made to think that it may be more of a straightforward (but comic) adaptation after all, but this soon comes crashing down as events from across the book collide into a kind of fever dream. At one point it gets so surreal that you do start to wonder if someone has slipped something into your drink, or if some kind of psychedelic vapour has been subtly sprayed into the auditorium. Yes, that is Chris Rea's "Driving Home For Christmas" on the loudspeaker - yes, you are still watching an adaptation of Little Women.

Some aspects land better than others; I struggled to follow what the dance sequence following "Je Ne Regrette Rien" was there for - and, for me, it does go on a tad too long. However, knowing that the show is going to culminate in a cocktail-making session (I promise there are definite, if tenuous, links to this) gives you something intriguing to look forward to.

The company make excellent use of different media, including creating their own cocktail soundscape, and projecting live footage of the cocktail-making process onto the backdrop. The costumes are bold and largely orange in hue, so far from the staid colour scheme you might usually expect.

Above all, it's phenomenally funny. Most scenes provoke genuine guffaws that leave you gasping for breath; thankfully there is some room to breathe, otherwise I would fear for the audience's oxygen levels. In one scene there is an astounding number of tree-based puns (a feat which I find fanta-stick), and dotted throughout are some simple, yet very silly, visual jokes that are just as amusing.

The kind of production that you wouldn't expect from this particular source material, but that only makes it more entertaining.

Little Wimmin was at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (Southbank Centre) on 13 March

Picture credit: Jemima Yong



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From This Author - Debbie Gilpin