The Little Big Things at Soho Place
The Little Big Things is a show that has been getting rave reviews so I had to get myself tickets and see what the fuss is about and boy am I glad that I did. Before I even get started on the show itself it is worth noting that The Little Big Things sees the first Wheelchair user to lead a show in the West End for 350 years.
This new musical is based on the true story of Henry Fraser and his best selling autobiography of the same name. The musical follows Henry and his family after Henry sustains a life changing injury and follows his journey as he battles with his past self as well as creating a different future to the one he had planned.
Leading the company is two versions of Henry Fraser, we meet pre-accident Henry played by Jonny Amies and post accident Henry played by Joseph Wolff (who normally understudies the role). Both actors are stunning in the role and the dialogue between them is an ingenious way to let the audience in to Henry’s innermost thoughts. A highlight of the show is also a symbolic movement piece towards the end of the show, and an image you will probably recognise from some of the shows press shots which saw Joseph Wolff take flight in his wheelchair as he gains some closure on the circumstances surrounding his accident.
It is not just the part of Henry Fraser that is written and performed beautifully. Dealing with Henry’s accident is also his parents and 3 brothers all of whom react in different ways, The book by Joe White depicts some hard conversations and ones that many other shows may shy away from but as well as talking about the hard moments it also embraces the warmth of the family and the joy that comes from their bond.
A memorable character is Agnes played by Amy Trigg. Agnes is the physiotherapist who treats Henry and she is also a wheelchair user. Trigg gets some of the hardest hitting lines of the show with her observations abut disability but what this show does so well is ensure that Agnes personality isn’t just about her disability. Instead we are treated to a physiotherapist with a wicked sense of humour who refuses to take no for an answer and leaves the audience eating out of the palm of her hand.
We also meet Katie who is Henry’s crush and turns out to be a true friend to him whilst he is in hospital. The character of Katie ensures that the book has levity and introduces an element that everyone can relate to, a teenage crush. Gracie McGonigal is wonderfully warm in this role and lights up the stage whenever she appears. The casting of McGonigal is also of note as she was was born with a congenital limb deficiency. Her disability is never mentioned throughout the show and rightly so as it is not relevant but it demonstrates just what casting directors can do when they are open minded and fits brilliantly with the ethos of this show.
The book by White is a roaring success and it manages to strike the balance between emotional yet never self indulgent and funny all whilst retaining the human element. The music is by Nick Butcher and lyrics by Butcher and Tom Ling who come from a pop background but make the transition to musical theatre seamlessly. The songs are catchy and cohesive whilst avoiding feeling samey. The choreography by Mark Smith seamlessly brought together the cast and showed many other musicals just how choreography can be done with disabled actors alongside able bodied actors. It was also wonderful to see elements of BSL integrated into the choreography, a subtle touch but one that didn’t go unnoticed.
The show is staged in the round with not a bad sightline in the house in the new Soho Place Theatre. The set design by Colin Richmond is kept clutter free and instead the focus is on colour washes on the floor to set the mood and the occasional object or piece of art flown in. The use of colours and projection on the floor fits in brilliantly with the link to Henry’s art work.
Theatre can be wonderful for many many reasons, it can entertain, it can move, it can break barriers and it can inform and The Little Big Things does all of this and more.
Don’t just listen to my opinion about this show, I’m keen to share a reviews from disabled theatre goers and their thoughts on the show so do have a read of this review here – Disability Arts Online
The Little Big Things is on at Soho Place until 2nd March 2024. To find out more and book tickets visit their website.