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little wimmin from Figs in wigs
Photo credit @ Rosie Collins

Review: Little Wimmin, Southbank Centre

The five sibyls who hover over the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall promise lobsters and gloves, climate change, astrology and limes, all of which are, indeed, present and correct. What the sibyls don’t promise is a faithful version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Which is just as well. Presented entirely in shades of orange, Figs in Wigs’ performance art show pokes fun at the simpering sentimentality of Little Women, and at the tendency to view historical texts through the lens of contemporary issues. It is a show of three parts. The 25 minute intro section provides teasers…

Summary

Rating

Poor

An eccentric and meta variety show.

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The five sibyls who hover over the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall promise lobsters and gloves, climate change, astrology and limes, all of which are, indeed, present and correct. What the sibyls don’t promise is a faithful version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Which is just as well.

Presented entirely in shades of orange, Figs in Wigs’ performance art show pokes fun at the simpering sentimentality of Little Women, and at the tendency to view historical texts through the lens of contemporary issues. It is a show of three parts. The 25 minute intro section provides teasers and explanations for what will follow. It sets up a sort of mental treasure hunt for the rest of the show, with some of the items much less obvious than others. There are some funny lines in here, but it’s all delivered in a deliberately mannered style that reduces the comedic value.

The middle section compresses the story of Little Women into just a few hammy scenes, with an apocalyptic finale that mashes together all of the book’s greatest dramatic hits. It is very broad humour that includes drinking shots from a phallic ice sculpture and an extended scene in which the March sisters nurse their hangovers. There is a neat mantlepiece gag, and an amusing running joke about Amy’s appetite, but overall this section caricatures the women even more than Alcott did, and vulgarises them without much apparent purpose.

Finally, the action becomes abstract and whimsical. The March’s living room is dismantled to make space for dance sequences, a musical number with jelly and a very long cocktail-making session that my companion described, with bemusement, as ‘ASMR with Oompa Loompahs’. The dance sequences are hypnotically watchable, but their connection with the rest of the show is wilfully tenuous, and they always go on just a little too long. The destruction of the patriarchy and/or ice caps, as represented by the phallic ice sculpture, feels more like a comment on crass metaphors than on society or climate change, but it’s no more entertaining for that nuance.

Figs in Wigs clearly have a loyal following. Many in the audience were laughing from the second the curtains opened, and obviously delighted in the show’s knowing preposterousness. It may be obvious by now that it is a taste I did not acquire, but if an eccentric, meta and politically aware variety show, or indeed the colour orange, is your bag, then you will love Little Wimmin.   

Written, Directied and choreography by: Figs in Wigs
Set Design by: Emma Bailey
Lighting Design by: Gene Giron
Costumes by: Rachel Gammon
Sound by: Suzanna Hurst & Alicia Turner
Produced by: Jenny Pearce

Little Wimmin has completed its current run.

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