Thursday 14th to Saturday 16th November and Wednesday 20th to Saturday 23rd November at 7:30pm, plus matinees on Saturday 16th and Saturday 23rd November at 2:30
Directed by Mark Wakeman
Little Women tells the classic story of the four spirited March sisters growing up in genteel poverty against the backdrop of the American Civil War that looms in the background.
Conjoined with her later classic 'Good Wives', Reeves' charming adaptation sensitively illustrates the sisters' path to maturity encompassing the many reversals of fortune in their lives.
The romantic, tragic and comic elements are flawlessly captured, successfully creating an emotional journey that tugs at the heartstrings.
This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre (formerly Havant Arts Centre), East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Mrs March||Megan Green|
|Aunt March||Ingrid Corrigan|
|Aunt Carole||Ruth Prior|
|Mr March||Alan Welton|
|Stage Manager||Sharon Morris|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Jen Jones, Sarah Parnell|
|Choir Mistress||Sarah Parnell|
|Sound Design||Jacquie Penrose|
|Lighting Design||Thomas Hall|
|Lighting Operation||Jaspar Utley|
|Sound Operation||Jacquie Penrose|
|Costume team||Sue Dawes, Judith Smyth, Di Coates|
|Set Design||David Penrose|
|Programme Editor||Derek Callam|
I find myself a little confused to be directing this production as I can quite honestly say it was something that I would never have thought I would direct. I'd always been aware of 'Little Women', not from the book but from the many film adaptations that my Mother used to watch and which I found myself bewildered by. It always seemed very talky and girly with entirely too few space battles, time travel or aliens (Seriously? Who would want to watch such a film? At least set it in a post-apocalyptic future where monkeys rule the world or something!!!!)
But as the years passed and my taste in films grew and expanded, mostly due to taking Film as my degree I found myself as the only man in a cinema full of women watching the 1990's version with Winona Ryder and finding that I rather enjoyed it. (I'm still convinced that it could be improved by an alien invasion or two but there are few films that couldn't.)
Anyone who actually reads the director's notes (If you have, come up to me and shout the word SPONG!!!! Otherwise I shall assume you have ignored my scribblings) and has seen the last two plays I directed, 'Daisy Pulls It Off' and 'Ladies Day' will know that I was searching for plays to utilise our amazing actresses and 'Little Women' was one of those I read. I enjoyed the adaptation, thought it was smart and fun and, importantly, workable on our stage but as I'd never read the book thought someone else should direct it. So I tested out a few of our other directors to see if they thought it would be worth doing. However most of them wanted to be in it rather than direct it, and as I thought it was a pretty perfect play for our November Non-Christmas Show slot I decided to give it a go.
I have been very lucky to assemble a cast of such quality and experience to bring the show to life and would like especially to welcome our three newcomers Stuart, Sophie and Kirsty and hope that this is but the start of their Bench careers. Thanks also to the rest of the cast, most of who have been directed by me before and therefore should have known better, and all those who helped backstage and behind the scenes in the various and numerous capacities.
I was very nervous to present this play to the public as so many people have said to me it's their favourite book and there was a weight of audience expectation which doesn't normally carry into a play. I've tried to be as faithful to the books as I could (Yes, I read both 'Little Women' and 'Good Wives' for research) and have done my best not to put in my usual silly jokes which I normally indulge in. There may be a few that slipped through though. One or two. But I definitely didn't put in an alien invasion. So purists will be pleased about that I'm sure.
Finally I would like to dedicate this show to my lovely Mum, who loved this story so much and who I hope, were she still with us, would have been pleased with what we've done with it.
Thank you for coming and supporting local theatre, you are vital to our survival and we are very grateful. I hope you enjoy the show.
The mixed cast of old hands coupled with a newer intake are given a lot to contend with over the nearly three hours (including interval). From unrequited love to heartbreak to that famously tear-jerking deathbed scene, it's certainly worth the price of the ticket.
And on the whole, the sweeping storyline moves along apace. On this first night there were a few teething problems; some of the accents wandered slightly and the occasional highly-charged dramatic scene didn't quite hit the mark.
But there were stand-out performances too, particularly from Jessi Wilson as a maturing Amy March, Jo Langfield as affected society friend, Sallie Gardiner and a very competent Beth Evans as sensible Meg.
Multi-award winning Bench Theatre are currently staging Louisa May Alcott's American classic "Little Women". The inspiring tale of the four March sisters 'coming of age' set against the backdrop of the American Civil War and a period of political movement for women's equality and independence.
Each of the girls displays a different temperament struggling with their own individual situation. Meg, the oldest sibling born at a time when "to marry well" was the highest ambition for most young women, sets her sights on a comfortable married future. Second in line is tomboy Jo, forever bemoaning being born female and dreams of literary success. Poor sickly Beth is content to stay at home and emulate her parents charitable works, while the youngest Amy is determined to seek her own destiny. The play gradually unfolds from late 1862 through to 1868 and follows the March sisters emotional development through jealousy, affection, sacrifice and heartache.
Directed by Mark Wakeman and exceptionally well costumed by Di Wallsgrove, this was undoubtedly an ambitious production to stage with severe space constraints, a large cast and multi locations to portray! There were accomplished performances from the three members making their Bench debut, charismatic Stuart Reilly is impressive as the lovelorn Theodore (Laurie) Laurence, while Kirsty Terry gives a sympathetic portrayal of the vulnerable and unassuming Beth, whose life so tragically ebbs away. However the standout performance comes from Sophie Hoolihan taking the lead as highly opinionated irrepressible Jo March. Sophie is hoping to achieve a place at RADA and has already performed on TV and with the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre. She completely captures the character of the hot-headed boyish female so resolute in aiming to hold her own in a male dominated world. Good support too from Jessi Wilson (Amy) and Beth Evans (Meg).There is much to commend in this show, with the current vogue for period drama, and it all adds up to another successful Bench production.