The accident left Henry with an entirely different life to the one he was living before, so it’s fitting that there are two Henrys present on stage. His younger, able-bodied self, brimming with excitement about coming of age and going on holiday with his two older brothers, is played by one-to-watch Jonny Amies, whose soaring vocals carry some of the show's most moving numbers.
Ed Larkin & Jonny Amies as Henry Fraser. The Little Big Things. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
Post-accident Henry is portrayed by wheelchair user Ed Larkin. He’s timid and plagued by thoughts of ‘if only’, at first, but it’s through Larkin that we see Henry evolve: eventually, his understandable self-pity blossoms into a new-found appreciation for the simplest things, among them sunlight and being able to drink water. With the support of his family and some key figures working in the NHS, his confidence grows, and in director Luke Sheppard’s production, this culminates in an empowering number sung sky-high in his wheelchair.
This is the first West End musical featuring a wheelchair-using lead, and it’s filling an important gap. Around Henry is a colour-blind cast, some with their own disabilities, and two of the songs are signed as well as sung, furthering the production’s commitment to inclusivity.
We meet his school crush Katie (a gentle, wide-eyed Gracie McGonigal) and his physiotherapist Agnes (Amy Trigg, full of gutsy charm), whose tough love and saucy can-do attitude plays a vital role in Henry regaining a sense of self-belief. It’s also through Agnes, a red-blooded wheelchair user with an able-bodied partner, that White debunks notions that all disabilities are sexually limiting.
The Little Big Things. Malinda Parris as Dr Graham. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
Elsewhere, Malinda Parris brings star energy to the part of Dr Graham, but is underused. Her one big number, Work of Heart, is one of the show’s best, voicing the plight of the NHS as much as her own issues.
Seasoned musical star Linzi Hateley gives a phenomenal performance as Henry’s mother Fran, pivoting from gut-wrenching agony waiting to see him in hospital to becoming his upbeat champion on a night out clubbing.
Henry spent months in hospital following his accident and White’s book inventively imagines conversations taking place inside his subconscious. Meanwhile Sheppard cleverly visualises Henry’s scrambled thoughts by having figures from the hospital invade his memory of being in the bar before his accident.
Cast of The Little Big Things. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
The production takes place in-the-round, with set pieces suspended above the stage. When Henry finds his talent for drawing with a pen in his mouth, it’s moving to see his vibrant images of wildlife and the family boat dangling above the stage.
To nitpick, the score is a bit samey: the majority of songs are uplifting ballads backed by keys and twangy guitar, but they’re emotive enough to move the bulk of the audience to tears on more than one occasion.
Henry has gone on to become an inspiring figure, using his experience to make the narrative around living with a disability more positive. His story, re-packaged in musical form, is another spin in the right direction.
|What||Little Big Things, @Sohoplace review|
|Where||@sohoplace , 4 Soho Street , London, W1D 3BG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Tottenham Court Road (underground)|
02 Sep 23 – 25 Nov 23, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|