By Erik Abbott
Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women, is among the most popular books ever written. A 1984 study indicated that it was more influential among US high school students than the Bible and it was once listed as one of ten books written in English expected to last five hundred years. There have been several stage adaptations (including a 2005 musical) and at least three films (most recently in 1994).
Now Luxembourg English-language theatre company BGT is bringing it to three-dimensional life onstage in a new version in October. Director Tony Kingston says that he was drawn to the project partially for pragmatic reasons.
Having worked a lot with young theatre students, he felt Little Women provided an opportunity to “harness some of that talent”. He did the same thing, he notes, “a bit with Jane Eyre” (BGT 2010), and Little Women builds on the idea.
The production features students from three area schools, the International School of Luxembourg (ISL), the European School, and Lycée Michel Rodange. Kingston says that he likes the story because “what really comes across are the characters” and adds that it is one many people know.
Little Women revolves around four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March, during and following the American Civil War, and their struggles, triumphs and loves. The sister roles are split between two actresses each, younger and adult.
The central character of Jo is played by Hayley Dawson as Young Jo, and Jacqueline Milne as the older version. (BGT audience members will remember Milne as Jane in Jane Eyre.)
Milne says Jo is “quite feisty”, although maybe less so when she is older. She is, Milne declares, “really one of the boys” and “isn’t confined to the constraints of the time”.
Dawson says that it is fun to play a character who is so “very spontaneous” and “who doesn’t take into account what anyone else thinks of her”. Jo, Dawson observes, “likes having all the attention on her”. The actress has previously worked with Kingston at school.
She is making her BGT debut after several productions at the European School, where she is a student. Both actresses report that the individual sister groups get along well.
The adaptation is by June Lowery, her fourth for BGT. Lowery says that the books (there are actually two—Little Women and Good Wives, usually published together) are “very real”, and present challenges in trying to “get the spirit and be faithful” while making it all work on stage. Kingston agrees, adding that keeping the upbeat quality of the story—“the lightness”—alive is important.
Great cast, young and… older
Kingston is very pleased with the “great cast”, praising in particular the young actors, saying they are “phenomenally strong”.
In addition to Dawson, that young cast includes European School students Gina Millington and Elena de Kort as Beth and Amy, Lycée Michel Rodange student Cindy Bloes as Meg, and ISL student Rasmus Eriksson as Laurie. (Karrie Zych, Ruth Gillen, Lindsay Wegleitner and Martin Campion play their adult counterparts.) Jessica Whitely leads the brood as Mrs March.
The combination of youthful (and adult) talent and the much-loved classic story promise a delightful and touching night of theatre.
Watch the play
Little Women will be performed at Mierscher Kulturhaus (Mersch) on October 2, 3, 4 and 5 at 8pm, and at the Abbaye de Neumünster, Luxembourg on November 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 at 8pm.
The cast includes Cindy Bloes, Martin Campion, Hayley Dawson, Rasmus Eriksson, Ruth Gillen, Elena de Kort, Jacqeuline Mile, Gina Millington. Design is by Karl Pierce, costumes by Deborah Cocking and the play is produced by June Lowery.
To find out more, visit www.the-bgt.lu
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