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The Little Big Things (streaming)- musical review

If you're seeking that special piece of theatre to change your view on life, look no further: The Little Big Things may not currently be on stage, but thanks to the National Theatre, you can now stream this beautifully crucial musical from the comfort of your own home. As a reflection of how far the arts industry has come, and where it must go next, the thoroughly inspiring story of Henry Fraser and his family is truly something everyone should see.

When a dream holiday turned into a nightmare, a split moment forever changed the dynamics of Mum, Dad, Henry, and his three brothers. After a devastating accident diving into the ocean, navigating the effects of becoming tetraplegic seems an impossible feat - both physically and psychologically. Crafting this into an intricate and complex story, with layers of depth that perfectly convey the vast conflicts of emotions that occur after such events, the show neatly balances vital meanings and messages with strands of joy and humour richly woven in.

In a thoroughly creative depiction of the lasting impacts, Jonny Amies plays Henry Fraser pre-injury, while Ed Larkin becomes his present-day persona. The parts intertwine beautifully in a moving collaboration that illustrates the change of perception from himself and those around him; the turmoil to understand and detach from the harmful thoughts that shroud everyone from that crucial moment onwards. Linzi Hateley and Alasdair Harvey make an impeccable duo as Fran and Andrew Fraser respectively, giving raw, honest performances that refuse to shy away from the full range of feelings that come with the sudden shift in circumstance. The three brothers, Tom (Jamie Chatterton), Will (Cleve September) and Dom (Jordan Benjamin), all join forces as a support network, with Henry's friend - and crush - Katie (Gracie McGonigal) offering her care too. As a team, their understanding develops to reframe the scenario over time, highlighting contemplation regarding who has the responsibility of adapting: a refreshing tone seeing it be shared rather than solely falling to Henry, being disabled. With humourous nuances bringing light despite the difficulties faced, the support and dry wit from Dr Graham (Malinda Parris) and Agnes, the physiotherapist (Amy Trigg) particularly apply an ideal dose of optimism to counteract the fear and worry for the family, as well as celebrate the important work of the NHS.

Big themes are consistently approached in an appropriate and impactful manner, ensuring thought-provoking dialogue is opened surrounding the concept of disability, particularly those caused by a specific event. The intricacies of processing that grief and doubt - reminiscing and deliberating the point of blame and protection - wishing to rewind time as relief from the endless isolation and frustration, often get overlooked if not a known experience. Here, The Little Big Things paints the picture in all its colours (quite literally), with an eye-opening outlook to make us realise how much we take for granted, and how to fuel even our darkest days with a glimmer of optimism, giving a certain life-affirming relatability to everyone, regardless of personal circumstance.

Being staged at Soho Place upon recording provides a compelling opportunity to utilise the ability to perform from the middle of the auditorium. A lift in the centre allows for interesting use of levels at various points, with Colin Richmond's set design working well alongside Howard Hudson's immersive lighting arrangement. Direction by Luke Sheppard takes an intimate approach, driving investment for the characters that really brings the audience into the narrative.

Further enhancing the composition, the combination of music and lyrics by Nick Butcher and Tom Ling provides an enthralling score with clever lyric work, mixing upbeat, exuberant tracks with others more poignant. Each song fills the room with passion, and vocally the cast demonstrates skill to match. Mark Smith's choreography additionally gives power through movement to these. Without spoilers, a particular scene shows wonderful creativity through Fay Fullerton's costume design too - you'll know it when you see it!

The Little Big Things truly shows how to appreciate your existence. There is such a homely and heartwarming essence in the lack of complication of the execution, yet the morals run deep, rooted in complex, real-life matters. Audiences follow the journey of discovery for Henry, rebuilding his self-worth, and seeing the shift in his lens for viewing the world- ultimately it is what you make it. Whatever hand has been dealt, regardless of the conflict and fractured sense of belonging, with hope, strength and bravery, met with kindness and belief from those surrounding, vast resilience can form. This is a true demonstration of that.

As a theatrical masterpiece of storytelling that divulges meaningful insights, yet exudes ease of enjoyment in the musical, it breaks the boundaries of taboo discussion. It formulates a trailblazing demonstration to the industry of how representation on stage should be performed. Although disability is at the heart, the idea isn't tokenised or stereotyped: disabled people are shown to be independent, fun, sexy, and deserving of the same love and fulfilment as anyone else. There are no limits to what can be achieved when the world decides to be accessible - it's just getting to that point that is an incomprehensible mission, given the current climate. But, by supporting and championing such incredible productions like The Little Big Things, we can begin to make even stronger waves towards a better, more inclusive society - be part of that.

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