Canada’s answer to Little Women was a brash, outspoken but adorable redhead called Anne, “spelt with an E”, who gets into scrapes. LM Montgomery’s 1906 novel has thrilled generations of girls who just wished they had the nerve to dye their hair green or break a slate over a mocking schoolboy’s head.
Now director Andrew Loudon and writer Emma Reeves have brought the novel to the stage in the first wholly successful adaptation, largely thanks to a splendid central performance by Ruth Gibson, blissful casting for the freckle-faced Anne, who invests this pushy little pickle with a lovely sense of wonderment and joyful bonhomie that disarms and utterly delights.
In a picture-book rustic setting, David Baron and Jenny Lee as Anne’s foster folk strike exactly the right note of affectionate warmth mingled with occasional exasperation, coupled with Tina Gray’s sumptuous schoolmarm and Lisa Hewitt as bosom pal Diana in an hilarious juvenile drunk scene.
Reeves wraps this classic tale within an unnecessary narration, beset by bullies in an inner-city comprehensive, which may confuse those who have not read the book. It is an unexpected error of judgement that will surely be ditched when this otherwise gem of a show is revived.
Lilian Baylis, London, November 30-January 8
- Emma Reeves, from LM Montgomery’s novel
- Andrew Loudon
- Mark Bentley, Novel Theatre
- Cast includes
- Ruth Gibson, David Baron, Jenny Lee, Tina Gray
- Running time
- 2hrs 15mins