19 April 2023
A LITTLE LIFE (Harold Pinter Theatre) Review

Having seen this production at Richmond Theatre (see review here), I debated long and hard about whether I wanted to see it for the second time, but, ultimately, decided that I should do for the acting, so off I went to the Pinter for the second helping of this torture fest.  Therefore, this isn’t a full review as such, but some notes on how this experience was different from the first show.

This time I opted to view the play as a story about Willem rather than Jude.  Once I turned it on its side like that, it was certainly a more enjoyable watch.  Luke Thomspon’s performance is very smooth, and his Willem genuinely feels like a real person beginning to end.  It also makes for a more interesting story, or so I thought, anyway.  Willem’s journey from friendship to love to heartbreak to companionship is far more relatable (and, frankly, believable) than anyone else’s journey, let along Jude’s.

Jude as a character, I am sad to note, is still a stick figure:  he has no personality, but is simply a prop onto which abuse can be heaped.  That said, James Norton gives it everything he has and then some.  His performance is more relaxed than it was at the start of the run, which makes the contrast between Jude and Willem in terms of [not] having any personality a bit less jarring.

I must say that I liked Zubin Varla’s Harold a lot less this time around.  He was more annoying, more preachy…  Whilst other characters have mellowed and settled, his went the other way, and it didn’t quite work for me.

As for the moving images of New York…  Plenty has been said by others about the movement representing the moving forward of our lives and about the images going hazy just before Jude is about to have one of his episodes.  Well…  Since the characters don’t age on stage as time goes by, the moving image doesn’t create that connection in real time, so this is just a hindsight explanation.  Furthermore, I don’t see how giving away what’s about to happen with Jude is a good thing.  But maybe that’s just me.

A fantastic improvement is Jude’s scars.  Either how they are applied to Norton’s skin has changed or the exam table has been coated because, unlike at Richmond, Norton is on and off that table without any distortion to the scars.  Well done to Susanna Peretz (makeup and prosthetics designer for the show) for fixing this.

The sightlines are broadly ok, but are a bit questionable.  For example, there is a medium-sized leafy plant on a side table at the back of the set.  Presumably it’s there to give the apartment a bit of a home feel.  But people sat behind in on stage kept fidgeting and looking around it.  Surely replacing it with a cluster of succulents or other little plans would serve the same purpose without blocking the view for no good reason.  The big view-blocking model on the other side is still there.  It’s little things like that, but they are distracting when trying to watch the show.

All the violent and bloody horrors are as gratuitous as ever.  A naked man running in circles on stage is something we’d seen recently in “Dogs of Europe”, and it’s equally pointless in both cases.  I don’t think that scene would’ve been worse in underwear, so we are back to trying to shock people for the sake of shocking itself.  The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am at the great acting talent being invested into this ridiculous plotline.

Cheapskate enjoyment value: £10 still.

P.S.: A young woman sitting next to me asked me, just before the show started, whether I had read the book.  I said no and asked whether she has done.  When she said yes, I asked her why she read the book.  She thought about it for a bit and said she thought it was an interesting story.  I asked if she thought it was a realistic one, and she thought quite a while before saying she wasn’t sure…

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