Stuart King

Review: THE LITTLE BIG THINGS at @sohoplace

When the third son in a family of vibrant and committed rugby fans succumbs to a swimming accident whilst on holiday with his brothers in Portugal, the world changes overnight — for everyone. THE LITTLE BIG THINGS is a zingingly fresh story which manages to tick all the right boxes as it combines comedy with a soupçon of schmaltz, but mercifully manages to avoid musical theatre cliché and cynicism.

The cast of THE LITTLE BIG THINGS at Soho Place. Photo by Pamela RaithThe cast of THE LITTLE BIG THINGS at Soho Place. Photo by Pamela Raith.

Faced with their brother’s tragic paralysis, the sons of the Fraser family try to pull together and maintain a veneer of strength with their father Andrew (Alasdair Harvey). But it is Linzi Hately as Fran their mother who channels the sort of anguish which only an actress who has children, can truly conjure. In One to Seventeen she recounts her boy’s states of development creating a naturalistic torment which transfixes all who witness it, (but equally, one which all pray they will never have to experience in their own lives).

As reality dawns on wheelchair using Henry (Ed Larkin) he discusses his past and future with his pre-accident self (Jonny Amies) as they reflect on the diminished prospects of a happy and fulfilled life with school crush Katie (Gracie McGonigal). After the daunting prognosis from Dr Graham (Malinda Parris who rocks her moments in the spotlight), Henry embarks upon the hospital physio regimen with droll and no-nonsense Agnes (Amy Trigg — mellifluously delivering killer punch one liners). Brothers (Cleve September, Jamie Chatterton and Jordan Benjamin) gradually work through their own feelings of guilt and anguish but with an instantly recognisable familial familiarity.

Filled with 3-minute pop-style songs interspersed with moments of agonising pathos, the new British musical by Nick Butcher and Tom Ling (with book by Joe White based on Henry Fraser’s memoir) takes a heartbreaking accident, wraps it in a family’s agonising torment, wallows for a few moments, then ratchets up several gears to kick every stereotype, assumption and complacent attitude about disability, into the long grass. The story and its delivery is terrifically inspiring and thoroughly deserved the 5 minute standing ovation on press night. Miss it at your peril — especially if you’ve ever harboured a secret desire to watch a night club scene where attendees dress as Monopoly pieces! Directed by Luke Sheppard with choreography by Mark Smith and a dazzling colour palette from the set, lighting and video design team, this is a production you won’t forget in a hurry — and for all the right reasons.