Review: A Little Life, Edinburgh International Festival

Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s A Little Life remains powerful and punishing as Ivo van Hove’s production hits Edinburgh International Festival

“The love seems magnificent because the fear is magnificent”

Confession time: as with the first time I saw this show, I’ve still to read Hanya Yanagihara’s novel and it has been joined by other such weighty tomes as The Mirror and the Light (sorry Hilary). But the chance to see Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s A Little Life again, even if it meant negotiating a trip to Edinburgh mid-train strike, was one I wasn’t willing to give up.

The production is rightfully uncompromising. Such subject material as this has to be treated sensitively even in the name of art, and Ivo van Hove nails that tone perfectly. Clear-sighted in its intention, its portrayal of the horrific abuse and its lingering after-effects that central character Jude endures is truly gripping and beyond the blood, there’s real subtlety in the evocation of its metastasizing impact.

The fragmented narrative also helps mitigate the horror, as past mixes with present, therapy sessions with thoughts. Ramsey Nasr’s performance as Jude is just stellar, a full commitment to the most challenging of parts and whilst it may be hard to watch the many indignities to which Jude is submitted, Nasr ensures we dare not look away.

The casting of Hans Kesting as all of the key abusers in his life is a creative masterstroke, pointing at cyclical patterns; there’s sterling work too from Marieke Heebink as his counterpoint. BL!NDMAN [strings] offer striking live music, Jan Versweyveld’s set folds in its video work in interesting ways, the cumulative effect is extraordinary – almost too much to bear as it dangles us over the precipice for more than four hours with a strange exhilaration.

Running time: 4 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Jan Versweyveld
A Little Life is booking at Edinburgh International Festival until 22nd August

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