At Camberwell’s Golden Goose Theatre, Louisa & Jo (& Me) continues a rich vein of form for Out of the Forest Theatre
“It’s been incredibly hard to write things this past year”
I didn’t think I ever needed to hear ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ ever again but serenaded by an acoustic folksy duet version as I walked into the Golden Goose Theatre for Louisa & Jo (& Me), I did begin to question my life choices. But then I shouldn’t have been surprised, as Out of the Forest Theatre have truly beguiled me with cracking shows like Call Me Fury and Bury the Hatchet over the last few years.
This is a first outing for Sasha Wilson’s Louisa & Jo (& Me) but even as a work-in-progress directed here by Hannah Hauer-King, it bears many of the hallmarks of an archetypal …Forest show – think an almost enchanting level of multi-layered storytelling sprinkled with folk music interludes – and looks set to maintain their impressive hit rate.
At its heart, this show is an interrogation of Little Women, the beloved (by any right-thinking person) Louisa May Alcott novel. At times, it is a straight-up adaptation of key scenes from the book, with musical accompanist David Leopold gamely helping out as scene partner. But Wilson is really exploring her own changing relationship to the book, how the experience of life refracts things differently as we grow older. Cannily, she also weaves in the authorial voice of Alcott, probing further into ideas around biographical art.
It’s a heady concoction but with Wilson’s convivial, confessional style, it’s an exhilarating, emotional adventure. The Little Women scenes are great (Jo and Laurie ice-skating is huge fun) but it is the intertextual material that really soars, the connections that flow between Wilson and Alcott and the Marches, and that evolution of the almost spiritual connection that we have with the pieces of art to which we return the most often.
There’s beautiful interplay between Wilson and Leopold throughout, whether wielding his guitar or a highly enviable yellow scarf, and snippets of 90s classics are integrated seamlessly into the fabric of the storytelling, it is so elegantly done. And it is deeply moving too, not just in the bit that you already know will make you cry but in the frankness with which Wilson tells her own story. Worth a trip to Camberwell if you can make it this week.