Review: Een klein leven / A Little Life, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam

Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life becomes Ivo van Hove’s Een klein leven in a blistering four-hour production for Internationaal Theater Amsterdam

“Jude, waarom doe je jezelf dit aan?”

Truth be told, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life has sat unread on my bookshelf for a while now, one of those weighty tomes destined to collect dust rather than have its pages turned as I tell myself I’ll read it on holiday but then decide it is too big to carry… So dank u to Ivo van Hove for bringing it to the stage with Internationaal Theater Amsterdam in one of his multi-hour epic productions.

Een klein leven has been adapted by Koen Tachelet into a show that is just a shade over four hours, which considering the size of the book is no small feat. And van Hove’s production with perennial collaborator Jan Versweyveld providing one of his idiosyncratic stagings, offers up a punishing and powerful rendition of an epic tale of ordinary people in extraordinary situations.      

Ramsey Nasr’s Jude is the central character: scarred mentally by abuse as a kid and physically by the resultant self-harm, and unable to shake that baggage even as he moves into adulthood with a tight band of friends. His tragedy is that he still can’t find a reason to love himself, never mind let others love him, and so so many of his interactions end up doomed even as they come from good intentions.

Hans Kesting delivers another of his exceptional performances, here starring as the three villains of the piece who all abuse Jude one way or another – a brilliant representation of the challenges of escaping trauma. And there’s strong work from Majd Mardo and Maarten Heijmans as the friends and lovers to try to persevere in extending love and kindness despite Jude’s damage. Stunning stuff. 

Running time: 4 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Jan Versweyveld
Een klein leven is booking in rep at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam

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