Taking the stage by storm at Soho Place, a new musical, The Little Big Things shares an extraordinary family story, and Henry, his parents, and three brothers must overcome huge challenges when life changes in a split second. In 2009, Henry - an avid sportsman - had an accident that left him tetraplegic, shattering his world as he knew it. A mindset brimming with determination and positivity allowed his view to shift, with fantastic outcomes after adapting to his situation.
Championing disability and accessibility in the arts, the show is a crucial part in breaking down barriers, as well as providing an uplifting sense of life-affirmation over the course of the piece. Rebecca Bowden is part of the cast, and kindly tells us more about it.
Who do you play in The Little Big Things, and what does the production mean to you?
I play a few parts in the show, including the Surgeon who delivers the news of Henry’s accident to his parents. The production is so special to me, a wonderful group of people on and offstage and it’s a real privilege to be part of telling Henry’s story.
How does the plot embody positivity through the devastating yet uplifting story, and where do the songs fit in with this?
When Henry gave his permission to the creative team to turn his memoir into a musical he asked them to ensure it was full of joy and colour. That’s exactly what they have done - you will leave the theatre feeling better about the world. The songs come in where talking is no longer enough - as they do in all great musicals - which really adds to the emotional punch of the story.
How does it feel to be performing a world premiere in the newest West End theatre?
It’s an honour and a privilege especially as Soho Place has been designed with accessibility at its heart - for onstage, offstage and audience members. Working on a brand new British musical that has its premiere in the West End is something that happens so rarely and I feel very grateful to be part of something so unique and special.
How have you found the rehearsal process and what are you most looking forward to about bringing this musical to the stage?
The rehearsal process was a joy - the cast (assembled by Jill Green and her team) and creative team on this have been so brilliant to work with. I’m most looking forward to continuing to bring this story to new audiences and go with them on this journey each night. The reaction at the end of the show is unlike anything I’ve experienced before!
What makes the piece relatable, despite being an autobiographical show, and what considerations have you had to make when telling a real story?
The piece obviously focuses on Henry’s story but we also show the effect his accident and recovery has on his family so this makes it very relatable. Henry’s book and message is about finding acceptance, how to adapt when life throws you a curveball and above all finding the joy in the ‘little big things’ - something we can all do much more!
What messages in the show resonate with you most, and what do you hope audiences take away having seen it?
For me, as the oldest of four siblings, the message of the importance of family is the one that hits home the most. It really makes me aware of how lucky those of us with supportive families really are. I hope audiences take away gratitude for the little things, acceptance of the big things - and that they maybe send a card to someone in their life going through something difficult - it’s so much better than a text despite what Dom would say!
How do you think it reflects the arts industry currently, and the type of shows you think should be presented in theatres?
I think the fact that we are the first musical in the West End to have wheelchair users in lead roles is staggering and something to celebrate but also to consider why it’s only happened now. I think inclusiveness and diversity in musical theatre needs to cover more areas - race, gender, disability, sexuality, body types - to truly reflect the society we live in. The West End has had a shake up since Covid and there are more new shows than usual and I think that’s fantastic. Let’s hear new voices and new stories fit for today’s world - and have a range of ticket prices so more people can see them!
What have you learnt about yourself from being in the show?
This is the first show I’ve done in London since having my children so I’ve learnt that it’s possible to do both - with a very supportive team at home and work! I’ve learnt to accept help and totally reawakened my love of being on stage - I couldn’t have asked for a better company or show to have come back with!
How would you describe The Little Big Things in 3 words?
Joyful, creative, new
What a wonderful interview to illustrate the beautiful morals of the show - huge thanks to Rebecca for taking the time to answer for us. Best wishes for the rest of the run and beyond!
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Additional thanks to Freya Cowdry for coordinating this interview.