Written and Directed by
Joanna Butler

A Family Friendly Play that chronicles the novel Little Women – AusNotebook Music & Creative.


Little Women is a classic novel by American author, Louisa May Alcotts written in 1868. It is based on the childhood experiences of the author. The four main characters are  siblings Jo, Anna (Meg), May (Amy) and Elizabeth (Beth) who grow up during the American Civil War in New England, USA.  It is a tale of morality, following the lives of the sisters. It also focuses on the importance of family, God and love, the lessons of life, its struggles and joys and the death of loved ones.

The Novel was first adapted to stage on Broadway in 1912, and again in 1916 and 1931. It has  been adapted for Opera by Mark Adamo in 1998, as a Broadway musical in 2005, made into a  film four times, and nine additional versions have been noted.

Starring Kathryn Marquet, Judy Hainsworth, Emma Grasso and introducing Tammy Weller as the four March girls. 

Some might interpret the American Civil War to be the antagonist because it challenges and transforms the characters. This notion, however, was not explored on this occasion. We are made aware of the War through a few brief scenes and placards that read “Civil War” and “Lincoln Attacks Slavery” that make up part of the set.  The impact of war is somewhat sidelined and its entire dramatic potential is, in my opinion, constrained. Director/writer Joanna Butler's treatment of war focuses on the “absence father figure and how women shoulder responsibility of the father figure”.  The novel has a sense of naivety, which Butler retains in her treatment of the work, thus honouring the author's intention.

The play swings from melodrama to verging on musical theatre and back again. At times it utilizes theatrical devises of Bretchian Theatre, which are common in Contemporary Theatre praxis. We are given the veneer of the characters, rather than explorations into their deeper conflicts and subsequent transformation.  Butler makes use of the entire stage, bouncing the fictional space over four areas throughout the play. This frolic aligns us with the playfulness and innocence of the four girls.

The ensemble showcases the depth of talent in the Harvest Rain Theatre Company. In particular, Norman Doyle as Frieddrich /Mr Laurence /Mr March; Belinda Heit as Hannah / Mrs Hummel /Mrs Kirke give honest and earnest performances. Keep your eyes on Kathryn Marquet as Jo March and Pauline Campton as Marmee. These actors are already accomplished performers. In fact, the entire cast is enjoyable to watch and highly skilled professionals.

An audience familiar with Little Women will delight in recounting the antics of the four sisters from this childhood classic novel. This is definitely a production for the entire family.

“I love literature, I am a massive reader attracted to familiar stories I would like to see on stage.” For Joanna, she sees the characters in the play as “incredibly modern” and “family relationships are instantly recognizable”.

In her adaptation, the play focuses on the sibling adventures and their womanhood. As well as enjoying the novel as a child, Joanna says she is on a “mission to provide roles for female actresses. There are  wonderful female actresses around... I've always loved the story”. For Joanna “ the crux of the story is when Laurie proposes to Jo” and how the girls “go through life together” then the “family splits and have to grow up”.

Butler has remained true to the novel. She has staged events taken from chapters of this classic tale. These are  a flurry of short scenes interspaced by narratives making this a didactic  play.

The play runs from Friday 27th April, 2007 till Saturday, 12th May, 2007. 7.30pm start. Run time is 2 hours with a 20 minute interval. Harvest Rain Theatre, Sydney Street, New Farm. Check out harvestrain.com.au for further details.


Joanna Butler's favourite charity is Compassion which helps children overseas with ongoing sponsorship. What appeals to Joanna about this organization is that they “work with children, give children a better life and educate them”. She also supports the Mercy Ministries who help “girls in crisis with a house” and provide “a 6 to 9 month program”.

Article written by Pauline Sheldrake for AusNotebook Music & Creative (28/4/07)
(Photos courtesy of The Shock Factor)  

Click here for more information about Joanna Butler


Associated Article  Pauline Campton


Article References

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil. Copyright © 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin.

Wikipedia; information about Little Women

Notes on Novels information about Little Women
© 2006 through a partnership of Answers Corporation.


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