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Lydia White- interview

Louisa May Alcott's famously renowned Little Women recently became a theatre production, and was adapted excellently. The retelling featured a beautiful score, alongside a quaint and charming set, and a really wonderful cast all round.

You can read my full review here:

The leading sister, Jo March, was played by the extremely talented Lydia White, who did an incredible job in her role. She has spoken a bit more about what this has been like, so keep reading to find out more.


Can you tell us a bit about this production of Little Women?

This production is a musical version of the well-known story, and we follow Jo March, the protagonist, who is the second oldest sister. It begins in New York and she is showing her novel to someone she really admires and he says 'I think you can do better' and she goes on this long old journey. She has a flashback to when she was with her sisters and then jumps between different time zones, following the well-loved story, but it is mainly through the eyes of Jo. This production is very centred around her character, and the set and costume design was meant to be reflective of the 1800s, but also of Jo's imagination. We have an amazing quartet of female musicians who each represent one of the sisters and our company is absolutely gorgeous; the score is amazing too, and the book/script is really, really good. I think that it is a great adaptation of the story.

How does this adaptation differ from any others, besides being for the theatre?

It mainly follows the story of Jo- there are a lot of different sub-plots in the book and you follow each one of the sister's journeys quite a lot, but that is slightly skimmed over in this version. The father doesn't come back in this one which I think is a very interesting choice because I think it highlights the theme of Marmie being a single mum and having to look after the girls throughout this war and I think the writers have made this specific choice not to bring the father back into this version. Also, the writers have given, rightly so, a nod to Louisa May Alcott, at the end of the show by not following the book's ending, but giving Jo a bit of power in terms of she picks up an umbrella which in literature is a symbol of protection, which normally is male protection, but she picks it up herself and goes into the house, and that's the last final image that she is self sufficient, even though she has fallen in love.

How has it felt playing the iconic character of Jo, and do you think you personally share any characteristics with her? Yes I do, 100%. It was such a joy- I absolutely am obsessed with Jo, luckily, because I think as an actor you have to fully believe in your characters and I've fallen in love with her despite her flaws. What was amazing about this was that our director Bronagh really wanted to highlight the idea that Jo is a flawed heroine: she is very human, she is not this perfect idea of a female character written in the 1800s, and, similar to me, goes from 0 to 100 in a second, she's tempestuous and unpredictable. I find her really funny, I think she's hilarious- she's headstrong, a feminist, and independent. And I think that I've always held those values too... the idea that she doesn't need anyone to get by; she's self-sufficient and wants to earn her own money... she is very, very loyal to the point of not letting Meg go, and not wanting Meg to stray away from her and her sisterly love.

I think that the way that she grieves throughout the process is really difficult, but very rewarding as an actor because you've had that whole journey with Jo at the start, all the way through to Beth's death and beyond, and I think that's been such a rewarding process to be able to have shared that with an audience. I am completely in love with her.

What important themes do you think the show reflects, and can you discuss these?

It reflects the importance of family, especially coming out of the pandemic- as a collective, it has been brought to light what we actually value and what we actually want, and that has reflected in the show, as it is very family-centred. Doing it at the Park Theatre, which is beautiful, feels like the audience are in your living room, so they are part of the story. Important themes- feminism absolutely, independence; how much Louisa May Alcott was ahead of her time and how much of an incredible woman she was. She was an abolitionist and feminist.

I think it is about grief: my mum came to see it and she is a therapist, and she was saying that this is a really good reflection and piece about how people grieve. I also think sisterhood, and the bond between the sisters in the show is so important and everyone in the audience had something to relate to.

Do you believe that strong female leads (and supporting roles too, in this case) successfully build more feminism into the arts industry?

I think that this industry needs to champion diversity. Whatever role you have in this industry e.g. a gatekeeper, a performer, we need to make sure it's not just white leads and white supporting roles. We also need diverse casting in terms of gender - all the incredible performers who are non binary or trans need to be seen and championed. Our diverse world in 2022 should be reflected in art, so in my opinion, we should be moving away from telling predominantly white stories with white casts.

There was a show where lots of little girls came to see this for a birthday party, I think they were about 8 years old, and I was really proud that they were able to see a show that centred around a woman who didn't need a man to allow her to survive. That is something that is very important to me, that young people are able to see stories like this. My favourite moment was when we did a school show - there was a group of teenagers who came to see this and their opinions were absolutely brilliant. It was the funniest show I've ever done (I got heckled the whole way through!) but I loved it so much, and I think that's building awareness that not all stories in musical theatre have to be centred around a woman falling helplessly in love with a man. Our cast was very diverse which was really, really important to me and important to the creative team. I think that it's really important for audiences to see this kind of story with a cast that reflects our world. People need to see themselves reflected in art and music.

May you talk about your journey into the industry, and where you’d like to go next?

I have always loved this, I guess. Didn't really think that it was a possible career choice but was like 'I'm going to try'. I went to normal school and got my A Levels and then went to the RCS in Glasgow and it is my absolute favourite place in the world- I love Glasgow so much and I learnt so much about acting there, and so much about myself. I left home at the pivotal age of 18, and that was very eye opening to move to a different city that young, and at drama school, to be faced with a lot of questions about your identity: that was really useful for me to work out who I was at that age.

Where I'd like to go next... everywhere! I'd just love to keep working. I'm very invested in projects that have brilliant and diverse creative teams, brilliant companies, and tell stories that are important. I think the most important thing for me is the writing and stories have to be good. I love people so much and I think this is why I got into this industry, because I love meeting people, storytelling, and understanding other people's lives and experiences, so if there's anything that reflects all of that, that would be great! I'm not ever chasing money or fame, (because you don't get into this industry for the money!) but I got into it because I love people's stories and I want to understand, empathise, learn from and tell important stories.

Is there any advice you’d give to an aspiring actor?

People always say 'never give up' and I actually don't think that that can be useful that often because I think it's very brave understanding the time where you need to put your mental health and your wellbeing first, and quite often in this industry, it's difficult mentally. I think being brave enough to know what you want, is the advice I'd give. Really get to know yourself, get to understand what you value, and what you want to do. Never sacrifice... there's no job worth your health, so making sure that you're brave enough and trust yourself enough to know when it's too much.

You can be trained or untrained- there are so many ways into this industry and there's not any right or wrong methods of training: Stanislavski or Meisner, you can draw from so much to give an authentic performance, and I'm still learning. Every job I do, I learn even more about my way and how to connect with the character. Another piece of advice is to keep an open mind about the way you learn, and what you want to learn- for me, it is a journey that will carry on as I don't ever want to stop learning.

To be ok with rejection is definitely important, but it is difficult to allow that to become easier. I think it is always very difficult to feel rejection, but it is making sure that you have a life outside of acting you like, so then it's not high stakes, and the audition goes badly because you've put all that pressure on yourself. If you're content with life outside of acting, then that is the key to knowing that if an audition comes along that you really want, then absolutely invest in it, but if it doesn't go your way, then it's not going to be the end of the world- that's how you sustain this career I think.

Keep learning, keep practising as it's a craft, going and see as much theatre as you can, watch as much as you can... I like reading interviews with actors that I love- there's this amazing interview with Jeremy Strong who plays Kendall in Succession. I like learning how other people deal with this weird career.

And lastly, who inspires you, and why?

Women and people who identify as women inspire me, and anyone who has the same ethics and morals as me too. There was this incredible panel that I went to once and it was women in theatre-Equity did a talk panel discussion with this incredible director called Maria Aberg, and ever since, I've been really inspired by her and how open and trusting her rehearsal room was, and how she described her process, and I think that that's something really interesting. Women and people who identify as women particularly have a kind of empathy in the rehearsal room and an openness and a trust that is like a collaborative process- the same with Bronagh and Little Women- it was very collaborative and creative, and I loved that. It has inspired me to feel trusted enough to create work that I'm proud of.

Writers like Sondheim... there are so many actors that inspire me, too many to list, and a lot of writing that inspires me. I absolutely love reading books as well- Louisa May Alcott 100% inspires me. I read Little Women, and then I started delving into her life and she's incredible; her family are so liberal, abolitionists, and she's had an amazing life, and is an amazing person. In this show, all of my cast members inspired me so much: they were amazing and so supportive. Savannah Stevenson is incredible and a massive inspiration to me after sharing a dressing room with her, and seeing how supportive and down to earth and lovely and grounded she is. Everyone in the cast and in the creative team fully inspired me, and I'm filled with so much love for them. My friends and family as well, and I just think that the better the support group you can get around you, the easier this industry can be.

I'm inspired every day by people's kindness, people believing in me and the groundedness of people- I just think it's really important. I take that into my day to day, how I relate to people in this industry. I worked with Molly Lynch who's an amazing actress, who did The Last 5 Years, and I understudied her and her grace, humanity, 'groundedness' and kindness really taught me a lot about how and who to be in this industry, and I'm really grateful that I had the experience, and I was able to watch her for the process and learn from her. So there's a lot of people who inspire me, but I think they are closer to home than famous actors and actresses who also inspire me but in a different way.


It has been wonderful listening to Lydia talk about her journey with Little Women, and further with regards to the industry- a huge thank you for sharing this. It's such a privilege to see Lydia perform, so anyone who catches her upcoming work is in for a treat!

{Some grammar is amended for clarity}


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