HOME Theatre, Manchester; Saturday 14th March, 2020
In January 2020, the celestial conjunction of Pluto and Saturn ushered forth the auspicious dawn of a new air from Uranus. So said Figs In Wigs’ resident astrologer – a mystical prophet who seems to have also decreed that theatrical tradition should best be dealt with by repeatedly shafting a literary classic with the ravenous lust of performance artistry.
The opening scene of Little Wimmin is an eerily cosmic experience involving god-like super beings of profound awesomeness; ‘scene’ is probably the wrong word: instead it seems to be more like an imprecise epoch of heightened uncertainty and disorientation – one which deftly sets the general tone for the rest of the evening.
As the curtain goes up, five, floating Figs dressed in lilac-purpley-pink gowns and big, frizzy, white Wigs emerge. But theirs is not a physical emergence – they remain stationary floaters throughout – this is instead a cerebral penetration.
The talk is big and wildly imprecise: they bang on about climate change; roughing up the *atriarchy; making cocktails. It’s pre-match build up is what it is, Jeff. Visually, it’s absolutely at the tectonic boundary between a stunning press conference and actual theatre. Audibly, the mid-1990s-era fantasy backing track fills the air (of Uranus) with the kind of adrenaline-pumped hyper-anxiety that comes from watching the full, opening animations to some vast computer game.
“We are better than you, we will raise you up to our levels,” they say, beginning to sound a bit like the *atriarchy itself. It’s wild talk for a Saturday night and, to be honest, they do seem to just bang on a fair bit about some shit or other; but what does it all actually have to do with the classic novel Little Women by mid-19th century American writer Louisa May Alcott?
Pretty much fuck-all really.
Whilst there is a brief tour of some of the book’s chapters for those who simply couldn’t be arsed to read it, it becomes clear that Little Wimmin (the play) will not be a perfectly precise adaptation of Little Women (the book). The mystery that is the opening epoch is, therefore, nothing more than a titular titbit of tantalising tease: a preview of what is to come. Perhaps it’s a trigger warning for those expecting convention?
Sensationally, an interval is taken after just twenty minutes. Honestly, that is what happened, one very nervous Fig-virgin even whispered “Fucking hell, is that it?” But it wasn’t.
“The bar is now open” is the parting decree from the floating Figs as the interval curtain falls. But these antiestablishmentarianism Figs did too good a job of pushing their anti-agenda: 99% of the audience didn’t bother to venture out for another drink: “we just can’t be arsed, and anyway, fuck the capitalist *atriarchy that made you insert an interval to maximise audience revenue vectors,” seemed to be the general mood of dull lethargy oozing from the assembled middle classes.
Little Wimmin does eventually journey hesitantly into the congenial realms of actual, Little Women period dramatisationism. The Figs certainly look the part in their prim and proper dresses and their oh-so-woeful lamentations over how to best serve Father in a dutiful and respectful manner blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
But these traditional scenes are just vehicles, nothing more than a mechanism of transfer, they’re really just piss-stained seats on a late-night bus ride taking us to where we really want to get to, which is the theatrical nirvana where mind-bending performance art is ejaculated freely and liberally without the constraints of establishmeNT dickheads waving textbooks (that they wrote themselves) at everyone.
The abandonment of the Little Women thematic restraint is a huge relief. It was mostly bollocks anyway. Who gives a fuck about what some New England sisters are eating for breakfast when a jelly-wobbling christmas tree on stage is knocking out the finest choreography this side of downing ten Margaritas before working it and twerking it yourself??
As soon as the shackles come off the pace picks up and the whole show accelerates rapidly towards the finishing line. And the scenes / sketches just get weirder and weirder, the confusion increases exponentially yet what keeps coming off the stage is undeniably top-grade in terms of look and sound and feel.
The intracranial situation at the end of the show is proper messy, the mind is left floating in a misty moodscape of agonising delirium, hormones are all over the place. From out of nowhere an uneasy tension seems to fill the room. All that was prognosticated in the opening epoch of optimised freakiness did indeed come to pass. But how did we get there? And why are we here now? What the hell was the question again???
So is Little Wimmin really an adaptation of a literary classic? Normcore *atriarchists will be absolutely fucking livid, they’ll be frothing at the mouth and bouncing off the walls when they see this.
But actually it is a perfect adaptation if you opine that the original novel was just some sycophantic extrusion of the “look how prim and proper we must all be to succeed” paradigm that serves no one other than the fuckers (that inherited their position) at the top of the tree. So in the post-January-2020 air (of Uranus) of righteous Woke mobocracy, Little Wimmin is deliciously spot-on.
Often, on stage, you may randomly come across some freakishly wild shit being performed by a proper set of genuine cranks; the surrealist carnage that is Little Wimmin suggests that the five li’l wimmin of Figs In Wigs might genuinely be swinging the biggest entertainment balls out there right now.
|Visual pleasure||Multiple sets which looked incredibly ornate and grand, each dotted with cute little visual jokes. Fantastic lighting effects and agonising use of the stage curtain to drum up a feverish lust for more. Some joker at HOME theatre decided to put this on in Theatre 2 when it clearly belongs in the bigger grandeur of the (to be fair, haunted) Theatre 1. It definitely deserved the bigger stage.||5|
|Auditory pleasure||Ridiculously good use of swing/dance tempos and even some innovative loops created with sound effects. Most of the musical material doesn’t even belong together yet somehow it all works. It’s just a mystery how some of this gets made up.||5|
|Architecture & Theme||Doesn’t need any knowledge of the book to work as a performance. Though, ironically, if you have no knowledge of Figs In Wigs then you might be left wondering how your theatre-going life went so wrong. The gradual transition from period drama to surrealist apocalypse was a thing of pure genius. The opening epoch was a bit weird though, suspect it would’ve worked much better without it but then it might have something to do with the “breaking tradition” ethos, plus they may genuinely have been forced against their will to insert an interval.||4|
|Artistic delivery||Five incredible and very unique performances. Somehow they managed to stir up a sense of terrifying mischief – like the uneasy fear of watching over five small children knowing that any one of them (or subsequent multiplet thereof) could properly kick off at any moment.||5|
|Overall impact||Nothing like any period drama adaptation you’ve ever seen before. But even if you did come looking for a Little Women tribute act you still can’t complain at what got served up instead. So unique and innovative, fights the power at their own game and wins.||5|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|