‘I had to leave at the interval’: Theater-goers left traumatized by the West End adaptation of the cult novel A Little Life, starring James Norton, after graphic on-stage depictions of sexual abuse and self-harm.
A highly anticipated West End adaptation of the cult novel A Little Life, starring Happy Valley’s James Norton, has left preview audiences traumatized by its graphic on-scene depictions of suicide, self-harm and pedophilia.
An attendee at the Richmond Theatre, where the stage version of Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 book opened on Tuesday, said they made the decision to leave in the interim after the “relentless misery” became too much for them.
Another audience member called the adaptation, brought to the stage by director Ivo Van Hove, “possibly the most disturbing, unflinchingly brutal and explicit piece of work I’ve ever seen.”
Running for a whopping 3 hours and 40 minutes and soon moving to the Savoy Theatre, the performance features a star-studded cast, including James Norton, It’s A Sin actor Omari Douglas, and Bridgerton’s Luke Thompson.
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2015, the book became a word-of-mouth success, earning the author a following of dedicated fans.
Happy Valley star James Norton takes on the role of Jude St Francis, a lawyer who can’t escape a life of abuse in director Ivo Van Hove’s stage adaptation of A Little Life.
The novel is 814 pages long and follows four classmates from a small US college who move to New York and their relationships with each other, as well as complex issues including sexual abuse, disability and addiction.
After attending the first performances this week, fans of the play took to social media to express their surprise at how “raw” the production is.
One wrote: ‘#I only made it to the interval of “A Little Life”. 1 hour 50’ of relentless misery was more than enough for me…. (I guess it didn’t end ‘happily’) #Alittlelifeplay.’
The work lasts 3 hours and 40 minutes and presents graphic representations of self-harm.
One audience member wrote: ‘#ALittleLifePlay is brutal. Relentlessly brutal. But also brilliant theater. The entire cast shines. But it is James Norton who is the nerve center. Barely offstage for over 3.5 hours, this may be his best work. Award winning stuff. But not for the faint of heart!
Another added: “Possibly the most disturbing, unflinchingly brutal and explicit piece of work I’ve ever seen, which is definitely not for the faint of heart.” The entire cast is elevated and James Norton is an absolute powerhouse in this heartbreaking epic.”
One theatergoer wrote on Twitter: “Feels wrong to say you enjoyed something when the content is so raw and difficult, but I’m so glad I got to see this masterpiece come to life in such a thoughtful way.”
The novel became a critically acclaimed bestseller, with celebrities including Dua Lipa, who said the book “changed her life” on her podcast.
James Norton hasn’t shied away from demanding roles – the actor drew acclaim for playing Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley – but this is likely to be one of the star’s toughest acting challenges yet.
The actor, who is a type 1 diabetic, told The Graham Norton Show in November that the 3-hour, 40-minute play is so long that he has to eat on stage to keep his blood sugar levels stable.
He told Norton: ‘The added component is I don’t leave the stage for a couple of hours and I’m a type 1 diabetic so I have juice, and I can’t get it out because it has a mark on it!
“But I do have sweet things that I’ll have to have scattered around the stage in case he gets hypoglycemic.”