Making the best of what life throws at you

“What a story of transformation, inner power and inspiration”

Jonny Wilkinson

Ed Larkin and Jonny Amies as Henry Fraser 2 and 1 (Photo: Pamela Raith)

You’d be hard pressed to find a more cynical bunch of people than a group of theatre critics.  So how do they approach a feel good musical about life changing disability happening to a 17 year old destined to play rugby for England?  In all honesty, Musicals really aren’t my thing and the ones I prefer have a darker side, Parade is one of my favourites with its ending, a lynching, of a probably innocent man.  However, Little Big Things largely won me over.

This musical takes a teenage boy who, on holiday with two of his rugby playing brothers in Portugal, dives into the sea and hits the sea bed fracturing his fourth vertebra. At 17 he is paralysed from the shoulders down.  He faces months, really years in hospital eventually making the best of a disability when he is totally dependent on others. Until his physiotherapist discovers he can move his shoulders and so can control a specially developed wheelchair, he can’t steer the chair. 

Joe White’s book for the musical is based on Henry Fraser’s autobiography and unusually casts two as Henry, Ed Larkin who is a disabled actor is Henry after the accident and Jonny Amies plays 17 year old Henry before he was paralysed.  The interaction between the two is an interesting focus but I don’t think I really get it when the earlier Henry says he can’t wait to become his future self. 

Ed Larkin as Henry Fraser (Photo: Pamela Raith)

The musical feels like a celebration of disability and its pop/rock score with animated choreography adds to the joy.  What is remarkable about Henry is his lack of anger while his family all blame themselves in different ways.  Henry almost didn’t go because his passport had run out and a new one was quickly obtained by his father Andrew (Alasdair Harvey), his mother Fran (Linzi Hateley) wished she’d stopped him going and his brothers are blamed by her for not taking enough care of him.  It is the new role the family takes on in caring and visiting Henry that almost breaks them up.

There are several cameos which add humour.  There is Dr Graham (Melinda Parris) the overworked NHS doctor who says, “My blood type is caffeine and my guilty pleasure is sleep.”  Dr Graham’s analogy of disability is that its like planning to go on holiday to Italy and instead being rerouted to Belgium.  But the most influential professional is Henry’s quirky physiotherapist Agnes (Amy Trigg) whose personal experience is losing movement in her legs in a car accident as a young woman.  Agnes acknowledges that she too talks to the herself before the life changing disability which put her in a wheelchair. 

Ed Larkin and Jonny Amies as Henry Fraser (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Agnes and Henry join in the choreography whirling their chairs and using their arms to the music.  Linzi Hateley as Henry’s mother supports Henry and her husband gives up boating as they fear the sea will upset Henry in reminding him of his accident.  Henry has been given the positive genes and in congratulating himself on getting out of hospital after 17 months, counts his blessings: that he can breathe without a ventilator, drink without a drip and eat a biscuit.  The song “The World is Waiting for You” closes Act One. 

Act Two concentrates on what Henry does next.  Eventually he stops resisting his father’s gift of an ipad on which he can paint using a brush fixed to his old gumshield and started painting. Many of his pictures which include close ups of the heads of animals and birds, are impressive and earn a gallery showing attended by rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson.  Henry goes on to write a best selling book and becomes a motivational speaker.

Cast. (Photo: Pamela Raith)

The performances in Little Big Things are inspirational with Amy Trigg sure to be nominated as Best Female Actor and Ed Larkin as Best Newcomer.  As Henry is encouraged by Agnes to go clubbing there is a marvellously designed scene of a Monopoly costumes themed party and a romantic storyline for Henry with his school friend Katie (Grace McGonigal). 

You might find Henry Fraser’s musical story sentimental but no one can question how he has made the success of a life struck by adversity.  There were plenty sniffing and patting their faces with handkerchiefs at the show’s finale. 

Musical Numbers

Act One


Never Coming Home

Feel Like This

One to Seventeen

Work of Heart

‘Part of the PLan

Uma Vida


Don’t Wanna Have To

The World is Waiting

Act Two


What I Need

Silence of the Sea

Things We Shouldn’t Do


Miles and Miles

Guide You

One to Seventeen (Reprise)

The Little Big Things

Production Notes

Little Big Things

Book by Joe White

Music by Nick Butcher

Lyrics by Nick Butcher and Tom Ling 

Directed by Luke Shepherd



Alasdair Harvey

Amy Trigg

Cleve September

Linzi Hateley

Malinda Parris

Tom Oliver

Ed Larkin

Gracie McGonigal

Jordan Benjamin

Jonny Amies 

Rebecca Bowden

Jamie Chatterton


George Salmon

Elena Pitsiaeli

Amy West

Stephen John Davis

Joseph Wolff


Director: Luke Sheppard

Choreographer: Mark Smith

Set Designer: Colin Richmond

Costume Design: Fay Fullerton

Musical Supervisor and Arranger: Matthew Brind

Lighting Designer: Howard Hudson

Sound Designer: Paul Gatehouse

Video: Luke Halls

Musical Director: Laura Bangay



Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes with an interval

Booking until 25th November 2023 




4 Soho Place

London W1D 3BG

Tube: Tottenham Court Road

Telephone: 020 384 09611

Access: 0330 3335962


Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

@sohoplace on 16th September 2023