Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without an adaptation of a much-loved literary classic or two. Private Eye journalist Rachael Claye’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s magnum opus Little Women updates the adventures of the March sisters from American Civil War-era Concord to present-day Crouch End.
It’s like catching up with old friends on a worn but still comfy sofa that feels perfectly natural after a little bit of adjusting – and it’s much more enjoyable and involving than last Christmas’s lacklustre TV version.
Sepy Baghaei’s production is resourcefully produced without frills, not unlike the Marches’ mend-and-make-do approach to their genteel poverty. Amy Gough’s spiky Jo still can’t be trusted with a pair of curling tongs and produces her manuscripts on a hipster typewriter.
Isabel Crowe’s lovely Meg is a classic responsible eldest sister and Stephanie Dickson is appropriately infuriating as the precocious Amy, to whom everything seems to come so easily. The devotion between the headstrong Jo and fragile Beth is beautifully done, and Miranda Horn particularly shines as the angelic Beth (an aspiring furniture restorer rather than a pianist), her untimely demise still one of the most heartrending tearjerkers in fiction.
Pleasingly, there’s no longing for Jo and Sean Stevenson’s puppyish Laurie to be paired off as it’s made quite apparent what a terrible match they would make.
Claye handles problem that is Professor Bhaer by depicting a friendship that might lead to romance or it might not – in 2018, literary spinsterhood might not be such a terrible fate after all.