Divisive queer book A Little Life gets West End play with James Norton and It’s A Sin’s Omari Douglas

Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling A Little Life will become a major West End play in 2023. 

The four leads will be played by Omari Douglas (JB), Luke Thompson (Willem), James Norton (Jude) and Zach Wyatt (Malcom).

The novel, known for its graphic descriptions of abuse, addiction, sexuality, race and childhood trauma, has caused controversy in the literary world, with some readers accusing it of trauma porn.

Despite the ongoing discourse around the mammoth 720 page book, the stage play is set to run for 12 weeks at Harold Pinter Theatre from 25 March. 

Given the length of the novel, the A Little Life play will have a runtime of 3 hours and 40 minutes. It will be directed by Ivo van Hove, who previously staged the play in Dutch. 

“After all these years, every night, theatres are full, people are moved, sometimes angry, but it creates a very visceral reaction towards it,” van Hoe told the BBC of the stage adaptation. 

The Dutch version has toured in Amsterdam and at the  2022 Edinburgh Festival and was described as not “for the faint-hearted” by The Guardian.

A Little Life on stage in Amsterdam. (Jan Versweyveld)

A Little Life on stage in Amsterdam. (Jan Versweyveld)

Speaking about the casting, including that of It’s A Sin’s Omari Douglas. Van Hoe added: “I think I have a very good team of actors.

“I really took my time to talk to people, do auditions, because it’s very intense to play it, and I hope I have found a group that can trust each other.”

The show will have warm up run from 14 to 18 March in Richmond Theatre.

Speaking about the A Little Life play, author Yanagihara said: “I’m thrilled [Van Hoe is] bringing his interpretation of the book to London next spring, with the most extraordinary cast I could have hoped for. 

“This is a singular production, unlike anything I’ve seen before on stage; I hope audiences will be as transported and astonished as I was.”

Those involved are excited for people to see the show, with Douglas posting he is “so so so very honoured” and Norton adding he “could not be more excited”, the public reaction has been mixed. 

“I quite enjoyed A Little Life,” one person wrote, “but Jesus H I have no desire to see any of that stuff played out on a stage by anybody in any circumstances.”

While another echoed: “You could’ve left A Little Life as a piece of literature, really there was no need for an adaptation as if the book isn’t extremely traumatising on its own”.

Others are simply pleased to see such a stellar cast, with one writing: “I have been waiting for an adaptation of A Little Life and this cast is sublime! I will definitely be seeing this.”
Tickets for A Little Life running from 25 March to 18 June at Harold Pointer Theatre, are on sale now.