4 Soho Place, London W1D 3BG 0330 333 5961
- Theatremonkey show opinion
- Reader reviews
- Performance schedule
- Ticket prices
Ends 2nd March 2024.
Paralysed from the shoulders down in an accident at age just 17, Henry Fraser wrote a best selling autobiography about his experiences.
This new British musical features a theatrical pop sound by Nick Butcher, with lyrics by Tom Ling and a book by Joe White. Luke Sheppard directs.
(seen at the afternoon performance on 21st September 2023)
How an audience member reacts to this show, the monkey feels, will depend largely on their personal experiences of the subject matter.
For those who have been fortunate enough to remain untouched by sudden or even gradual onset of disability, this is going to be an uplifting and affirming production.
If, however, you have been there yourself or been closely involved with those experiencing it, it could well feel like something of a missed opportunity - even patronising, the show's writers missing some knowledge to infuse the construct.
From Henry Fraser’s memoir, Joe White has fashioned a modern book with contemporary if mildly repetitive music by Nick Butcher and serviceable lyrics from both himself and Tom Ling.
There is little economy and consistency, with the script taking a long while to crank up, then sporadically soaring before entering longueurs. A little like recovery, perhaps, but a little unfocussed if aiming for a tight musical experience.
Luke Sheppard directs with zest, Mark Smith doing his best to choreograph to all four sides of the auditorium alongside him. The speed of youth is captured by both, and we can forgive a little indulgence in the final sequence as it probably seemed a good idea at the time and is a “take home” image whether it truly serves the whole or not.
Outstanding lighting and video design from Howard Hudson and Luke Halls respectively adds a considerable amount throughout. Painting with light, animation and illumination melding in constantly dazzling and important ways to augment the story must be award-winning at some point.
The only failure in presentation is that one deeply moving sequence involving the lead character seeing his face - real and distorted - in mirrors for a few moments is visible only to those in one corner of the stalls. The monkey was lucky, but wishes they had found a way to share. Conversely, it missed several reaction moments of conversation where one interlocuter had their backs to it.
Still, we grow to love if not admire the protagonists all.
If Ed Larkin as central character Henry does not quite find the rhythm of his opening and closing speeches, he makes up for it for the most part in his interactions with his earlier self (eager Jonny Amies) and his brothers.
Of the brothers, Jordan Benjamin as Dom is the most fun, really coming into his own in the second half.
Linzi Hateley as Fran, mother of the brood, is in a class of her own, turning a mediocre reminiscence on motherhood into a stand-out solo show-stopping moment as the horror of Henry’s accident sinks in.
By contrast underwritten, Alasdair Harvey as her husband Andrew is left rather to his own devices until a final flourish near the end.
Gracie McGonigal as Henry’s potential first love Katie gives a wonderfully phased performance, part child, part strong woman and delivers one of the most moving moments with a lightness making it all the more impactful.
Equally memorable, Amy Trigg as physiotherapist Agnes overcomes the writers rather determined patronisation and stereotyping to produce much-needed comedy relief, even if eventually the joke is stretched somewhat thin.
Less successful, lead doctor Malinda Parris as Dr Graham is lumbered with an outrageously political lyric which does not really hold up to much scrutiny. Still, Parris does her best – in every sense – within the context.
Indeed, the entire problem for the monkey lay in the very British “carry on, make the most of it, mustn’t grumble” approach. It honestly could not accept the assertion “I wouldn’t do anything differently.” That felt painfully glib, ridiculous and more than slightly sickening as an outright lie.
Moreover, while there is a single humorous scene involving a painfully trapped part of the anatomy, true realities of disabled life - the humiliation of double incontinence, the constant form filling and horrific bureaucratic incompetence and brutality, simply just the living by the minute stress, are ignored in a missed opportunity.
There is turning negative into positive, which is the thrust of this story, but there is also fundamental truth – and this show’s weakness is never quite reaching (or being unwilling to even try to reach) the roots, the heart, the centre of the concept it sets out to explore.
Very much a story worth telling, and it is told well enough here, but this never quite finds the verisimilitude it deserves to elevate the musical to true emotional greatness.
Usually after we come out of a show and on the train heading home, I’ll chat about the staging, lighting, highlights of the performance, that kind of thing.
But heading home from The Little Big Things, I was quiet. I just could not find the words to describe what I had just seen. I’ll repeat here what I said, using the very limited number of characters available on a certain social media outlet:
“Every now and again, a true masterpiece of musical storytelling appears.
The Little Big Things is one such show.
Inspiring story told by an outstanding cast, struggling for words to describe this beautiful production.
Do yourselves a favour, buy tickets and head to @sohoplacelondon”
Beautiful was a word chosen very carefully. Everything about this production is inspiring.
The bravery of Henry and the Fraser family in bearing their souls and allowing their story to be recreated on stage. And the cast and team behind this show do it justice. Every single detail is perfect. I don’t want to single out any actor, any effect, anything. Each detail combines to make this a masterpiece.
I think what best sums up, is the reaction from a lady sitting in the Circle. It’s not unusual for tears to be shed at the theatre (heaven knows enough of them have come from me over the years), but she was openly weeping, so moved by what she has seen. Thinking back on it, I’m tearing up myself.
The Little Big Things is on until 25th November at @sohoplace - please do go and see it, it’s inspiring, life-affirming, beautifully constructed and performed and will stay with you for a very long time.
Seat review: Stalls C1 and C2
Row C is still very close to the stage. They’re comfortable, though they do make you sit up straight. Legroom is limited, but much better than row A (which are cramped), but still next to no space for coats, bags etc.. C1 and C2 are at the end of the row, affording a little more room for whoever takes the row end seat. That said, the aisles are often in use (in The Little Big Things they have ramps) so don’t expect to be able to put items alongside.
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Runs 2 hours 20 minutes approximately.
THERE ARE NO PERFORMANCES OF ANY PRODUCTION ON 25th DECEMBER 2023.
During the "Holiday Season" from 18th December 2023 until 7th January 2024, the above schedules will vary.
Charts showing scheduled performances during this period are available using the links below:
For Monday 18th December 2023 until Sunday 24th December 2023, click here.
For Monday 25th December 2023 until Sunday 31st December 2023, click here.
For Monday 1st January until Sunday 7th January 2024, click here.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.
CLICK SEATING PLAN TO ENLARGE IF REQUIRED. USE "BACK" BUTTON TO RETURN.
DAY SEATS: Available to personal callers for £25 each. Maximum 2 per person. Box Office is normally open from 11am each day.
RUSH TICKETS: App Todaytix are offering £30 "Rush tickets," located at venue discretion, usually standing places, for all performances. Released for the performance on that day, first-come, first-served. Download the App from Todaytix.