REVIEW : A Little Life with James Norton
Posted on March 15th, 2023
A Little Life is THE play I’ve been waiting for. James Norton leads a stellar cast and last night brought the audience at Richmond Theatre to its feet after the first preview. I could not have been happier for them.
It is a story of four Massachusetts college boys and their decades long friendship now living in Soho, New York. James Norton (Luke), Luke Thompson (Willem), Omari Douglas (JB) and Zach Wyatt (Malcolm) take you on a journey of friendship, love, connection and pain. They show that good solid friendships can be heroic in life and become your chosen family. The whole play takes place on the same set with the actors milling around as you arrive at your seat.
Book to Stage
If you have read the book you know that it is a long, beautiful and emotional read. It sits there as one of my favourite books of all time. The author, Hanya Yanagihara, adapted the book for the stage together with the director Ivo Van Hove and Koen Tachelet, and what an incredible job.
A Little Life | The play
It should be no surprise that A Little Life has been hailed as the ‘theatre event of 2023’. With Ivo Van Hove directing and a stellar cast led by James Norton, it became a frenzy to get tickets.
Where are you sitting?
On Monday night, I sat with 30 others right on the stage for an unbelievably unique performance. It was their dress rehearsal.
It was a huge privilege to sit so close and be immersed in such an emotive play. We sat with an entire production team in front of us. It was as good as I had hoped it would be and more.
If you are sitting on the stage you will have the audience watching you, watching the play. At the preview I sat in the Upper Circle and I was very emotional. Personally I will always choose Dress Circle, as I love to see performances from above.
A Little Life | James Norton
James Norton is the star and gives an astonishing performance as Jude. He should win every single award next season.
He plays the character with such poise and gentleness it is impossible not to fall in love with this young broken man, defined by the torture and pain inflicted on him in his early life.
Extraordinarily, James Norton manages to play the gentle soul of an 8 year old to a 40 year old, with mannerisms and a performance that has you spellbound. He even sings – is there anything the man can’t do! One thing is certain, it will be the measure of him to do this night after night.
A Little Life… the cast
Luke Thompson (Bridgerton) plays Willem, Jude’s best friend. A friendship we watch grow. He is captivating to watch and performs with such tenderness and compassion that it is almost heartbreaking.
The dynamic between the four characters of Willem, JB, Malcolm and Jude is based on a deep love for each other which shines through with even the smallest gestures. You smile with them, you laugh with them and you cry with them.
Extended cast members pull every other emotion from you. Elliot Cowan plays the ‘bad characters’ in Jude’s life. Repugnant in each role, it was hard not to shiver each time he came on stage.
Yet it is Zubin Varla, playing Harold Stein, who breaks me at the end. His presence on stage as the father figure of a Jewish family, cooking and caring with no strings attached, just the constant presence of love, is very moving. His performance is nothing short of remarkable.
Collectively, it is the performances of every single one of them that leave your emotions in tatters. You could hear a pin drop at the end of the play, as the theatre went dark. Ivo Van Hove has done a remarkable job.
It seemed forever before the house lights came back on. And as they did, the entire audience rose to its feet to applaud what will be the ‘theatre event of 2023’.
A Little Life | Top tips
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t already read the book, but do read it after seeing the performance as you will still get so much more out of this incredibly story.
Buy a programme so that you can place the actors.
There is only one interval, with two acts of 90 minutes.
This may not be your feel good play but these performances will sit with you long after you have left the theatre. They will definitely be the ones you remember.
PS take tissues…
A Little Life with James Norton : Dates and Theatre info
Returns are available and there is still limited availability at The Savoy. I’m sure this will change. If I’ve swayed you to see it, book now!
14- 18 March Richmond Theatre
25 March – 18 June Harold Pinter Theatre
4 July – 5 August The Savoy Theatre
Running time 3hrs 45 mins : 1 interval
Book tickets for A Little Life
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