Lately I’ve seen some really fantastic, new musical theatre and none fit this description more than The Little Big Things: a new production based on mouth artist Henry Fraser’s memoir of the same name. It is currently playing at the West End’s newest venue, @sohoplace and is inspiring audiences through Fraser’s remarkable life story and refreshing outlook on life. At age 17 he was involved in a diving accident, which left him paralysed from the shoulders down. After extensive hospital stays in both Portugal and the UK, he managed to leave hospital nearly a year early, which was such an incredible achievement given the life-affecting injury. Joe White (book), Nick Butcher (music and lyrics) and Tom Ling (lyrics) have created a musical about the days preceding Fraser’s accident, the event itself and his journey to recovery.
Narration and storytelling
Like the book, The Little Big Things is autobiographical, with the grown up Henry (Ed Larkin) looking back on this period of his life with an incredible sense of maturity. Rather than separate the narration and core plot, the Henry’s before (Jonny Amies) and after the accident interact, taking turns to contribute to the main narrative. Whilst innovative in its style, in places both Henry’s feel part of the main action, despite the fact that the younger figure is a figment of his imagination. It can be a little misleading with both performers having a physical presence on stage, blurring the lines between the present and what’s going on inside Henry’s head.
Movement and choreography
Whilst there are fun dance moves for the musical numbers, I was most impressed by the use of symbolic movement throughout the show. Choreographer Mark Smith approaches the difficult situations in a considerate and light way, avoiding literal recreations. Instead we are presented with an almost figurative representation of the events, which are by no means less powerful, they just have more impact in reflecting Fraser’s attitude towards life.
Power in positivity
Whilst the accident itself is devastating, the show follows a completely contrasting theme, looking at the positive outcomes that arose from such a difficult period. It is also incredibly funny, largely influenced by the physio character and Henry’s mentor Agnes (Amy Trigg): whose sense of wit and no nonsense attitude has an incredible impact on the Frasers. For such a sad story, I was inspired by the creative team’s ability to make you see the events from a whole different perspective.
The positivity extends to the soundtrack which is a highlight of the musical. Nick Butcher and Tom Ling have created an uplifting set of songs, which you can’t help but tap your feet along to. The title track acts as the bookends of the production, really encompassing the joy of this piece of theatre. There are also several more emotive numbers such as The World is Waiting and One to Seventeen, but even these take on a celebratory form, rather than a projection of sorrow. At times I would like to have seen a bit more depth in the emotion of the music, as it can be easy to get swept up in the positivity of it all and lose track of the complex times covered. Fortunately the dialogue is harder hitting, bringing the work into perspective.
Staging at sohoplace
Three floors of seating circle the stage and this paves the way for some unique set design and blocking. The performance has been carefully crafted to cover the entire space, extending to the corner walkways in the stalls. It is fascinating watching the company cover both the ground floor and travel upwards, defying gravity through raised platforms and elevation. Colin Richmond’s creative staging and Luke Sheppard’s direction make you believe in the impossible, acting as a metaphor for Fraser’s incredible sky’s the limit attitude.
Vibrant lighting design
Howard Hudson’s lighting design is one of the imaginative ways that the creative team have visualised Henry’s adoration with the little things in life, lighting the stage from every direction, to support Luke Halls’ floor projections. From the dazzling greens which represent the family garden to the oranges, pinks and blues that hold new meaning following the accident, the lighting adds incredible vibrant hues to almost every scene. This creative decision links so well with the character’s passion for art, turning the musical into a visual masterpiece.
You can’t help but champion Ed Larkin’s performance as twenty-something Henry. He manages to make you laugh, cry and commend everything the real-life Henry has achieved within the space of 2 hours of theatre. However, Amy Trigg is the star of the show in my opinion. She captivates the audience in the role of Agnes, bringing dry humour and a mischievous performance style to the cheeky physiotherapist. We get to see the character’s softer side in the quieter scenes with Henry, where they talk about overcoming limitations. These moments are so special, showcasing Trigg’s acting range and the powerful dynamic between the performers.
A celebration of the little big things in life!
A colourful new musical packed with hope, jubilation and appreciation, The Little Big Things is a joyous insight into Henry Fraser’s life. With an incredible soundtrack and powerful book, this piece of theatre is a visual and musical delight. Performances run at @sohoplace until 2nd March 2024, with tickets available via the theatre’s website and all major ticketing platforms.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxx