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    ‘Nudity and misery’: Reviews of A Little Life on stage are in.

    Janet Manley

    March 16, 2023, 9:30am

    At Point Break Live, they give the people sitting in the front few rows raincoats to wear. I mention it because reviews of the stage adaptation of Hanya Yanigahara’s bestseller A Little Life make it sound both emotionally wrenching and also quite violent. Might want to protect your theater outfit.

    The play stars James Norton as Jude, Bridgerton’s Luke Thompson as Willem, Elliot Cowan as all the “bad characters,” and Omari Douglas, Zach Wyatt, Zubin Varla, Nathalie Armin, and Emilio Doorgasingh. It is directed by Ivo Van Hove and, per Savoy Theatre’s bill, centers on:

    four college friends in New York City: aspiring actor Willem, successful architect Malcolm, struggling artist JB, and prodigious lawyer Jude.

    As ambition, addiction, and pride threaten to pull the group apart, they always find themselves bound by their love for Jude and the mysteries of his past. But when those secrets come to light, they finally learn that to know Jude St Francis is to understand the limitless potential of love in the face of life

    “The face of life” entails child abuse, sexual abuse, rape, self-harm, amputations, and suicide. The Daily Mail paints the experience for theatergoers (“a slab of misery”) as part-masochism part-catharsis:

    The first bit of self-harm — Norton hacking at his wrists with a razor blade as we watch through our fingers — comes less than 15 minutes in; and after that the blood comes thick and fast. […]

    Come the interval, about two hours in, the theater bars are mobbed. “Better make it a bottle,” “A double, please. Two doubles!”

    “I think I have PTSD!” says one young chap.

    The show has existing runs at the Richmond Theatre and Harold Pinter Theatre, and was extended to satisfy extreme demand from A Little Life superfans who attend “wearing A Little Life-themed sweatshirts and holding copies of the book aloft or cradling them like tiny babies.”

    Yanigahara’s 2015 book has sold over a million copies, and was a finalist for the National Book Award and Man Booker Prize, but garnered critiques over its reliance on trauma as the engine of the novel, and on Jude’s suffering (Parul Seghal memorably described him as a “vivified DSM entry”). Then again, some people have just come for the frisson they get from the nudity.

    “We’re scared of the penis. Men, I think, we’re far more obsessed with it. I mean, women I’ve asked are like, ‘I don’t care, you know, it’s just a penis, whatever,'” Norton told The Telegraph of his performance.

    The show runs July 4th through August 5th at Savoy Theatre.

    James Norton A Little Life poster

    “P.S. take tissues…”

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