A Little Life is notorious for being one of the most emotionally taxing stories one could stumble across. Its internet reputation as a devastatingly sad book that just might change your life has made it a popular sight on BookTok and Bookstagram. However, calling Yanagihara’s smash hit “sad” doesn’t really do it justice. It’s an expertly crafted story about trauma and friendship, love and loss, addiction and recovery, which has garnered a troop of passionate fans. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart (please do check all trigger warnings before picking it up), but for those who seek stories that amalgamate beauty and pain, A Little Life is a contemporary classic.
Since its 2015 release, discussion about how to properly adapt the behemoth novel grew steadily, with strong fan input about how to delicately approach bringing this tragic story to life. The newly announced stage adaptation sporting an all-star cast seems to be headed in the right direction, based on fan reaction and support. Let’s dive into the details!
The news dropped per the book’s official Instagram page. Dubbed “the theatrical event of 2023,” the initial announcement graphics were followed by the full cast list.
Directed by Belgian director Ivo van Hove, the play will premiere on March 25th at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London and run for 12 weeks. Van Hove has previously staged A Little Life in Dutch for four performances at the Edinburgh Festival. This new stage run will be the show’s English-language debut.
The original Dutch version of the play was met with generally high acclaim, though deemed, to no one’s surprise, an emotional rollercoaster. Much like the book, the show will likely leave audiences in tears.
Also of note is that the stage adaptation of the 720-page bestseller has a very long run time– Three hours and forty minutes, to be exact. Though there’s some concern that the length of the production may deter some audience members, the worldwide buzz surrounding this story and its characters will surely lead to sold-out shows.
Perhaps the most important part of this announcement is the cast. Who will play the four male leads? Will they have the chemistry and the bond to tell a story of this magnitude on stage? Based on early comments from the director and Yanagihara herself, the answer to the latter is a resounding yes!
Here’s the complete cast list, featuring many renowned actors from stage and screen:
- James Norton as Jude
- Luke Thompson as Willem
- Omari Douglas as JB
- Zach Wyatt as Malcolm
- Elliot Cowan as Brother Luke, Dr.Traylor, and Caleb
- Emilio Doorgasingh as Andy
- Nathalie Armin as Ana
- Zubin Varla as Harold
Upon the first teaser announcement, speculations among fans began to swirl on Twitter. The resounding worry was that this would be an announcement of a movie adaptation of the esteemed novel. Both Yanagihara and fans have voiced opposition to making A Little Life into a movie for years. I, too, would like to join the movie-opposition forces by stating that because of the breadth and the scope of topics in the story, a standard movie adaptation is just not feasible in doing it justice. Plus, as many fans are swift to note, not every book needs a screen adaptation!
Though a movie project is encouraged to be avoided, a stage adaptation is a whole other ballgame for Yanagihara’s loyal readers – one that has the potential to sufficiently adapt a story of this magnitude and emotional depth. Subsequently, the social media response evoked intrigue and excitement, as well as preparation to have this story break our hearts all over again. That said, there better be a live stream option for those (like me) who can’t make it to London next year. I’d like to watch this production in the comfort of my home with a box of tissues at hand. Maybe a few boxes of tissues, now that I’m remembering the toll this story took on me!
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