There is something comforting about spending time with familiar characters. Like so many of us during lockdown, I took refuge in old books, TV shows and music, nostalgic things that reminded me of safer times. So I can understand the impulse to create a show that takes the beloved characters of the March sisters and puts them into contemporary London.
‘Four Sisters’ is not an adaptation of Little Women, but more of a ‘what if’ imagining of how these characters would behave if they lived in our world. This is a character, not plot, driven piece, with the drama centred around their relationship with each other.
Devotees of the original book may disagree with some of the modernised quirks they are given (I actually thought they were quite spot on), but the idea of an Imogen Heap loving Beth, who disgusts Jo by only having rich tea biscuits to offer her, will never not make me smile. Written by Safia Lamrani and Kitty Evans, who also play Jo and Meg, this is a piece that shows deep love for the source material. It is full of humour but isn’t afraid to point out that these characters are far from perfect. Contemporary life isn’t easy on our little women, as marriage, an ailing mother and differing priorities risk pulling them apart if they’d let them.
At only 50-minutes long the time flies by, even though very little actually happens. The sisters have gathered to celebrate Beth’s 21st birthday. Amy, played beautifully by Pippa Walton, is a student who loves to paint. Walton really captures the essence of Amy, who is very much the lively and protected youngest sister, who nonetheless shows sparks of maturity beyond her years.
Olivia Denton is convincing as our shy Beth, who loves everything clean and tidy, which is challenging when you share a home with messy Amy. While Denton is believably timid, she hints at a bigger life with an actual friend in it, much to the disbelief of her sisters, a side to Beth it would be nice to explore further in a longer piece.
Lamrani’s Jo is full of determination and spirit, as she should be, while keeping her tendency to put her foot in it with some of the insensitive things she says to her sisters. She has been left with the responsibility of caring for their widowed, disconnected mother, and she is struggling. A lot of the drama of the piece comes from the sense that her sisters have abandoned her to manage all alone.
Evans’ Meg is very much defined by her role as a wife. She feels the most distant from her sisters, her path being so different from theirs. This is reinforced by a geographical distance too, as she has had to travel into town from somewhere where you can see the stars at night.
This is a much needed hug of a play about the strength of love between sisters, a love that can survive arguments and distance. It was lovely to be in the company of these familiar characters, made all the more fun by putting them in a contemporary setting.
The final performance as part of the Camden Fringe Festival is at 7pm tonight (19th August) at The Hope Theatre. It is well worth catching if you can get a ticket (there was an almost full house last night).