In the world premiere of The Little Big Things, Ed Larkin is making his West End debut starring as Henry Fraser, sharing the role with Jonny Amies, with the musical based on the Sunday Times best-selling memoir by Henry Fraser. The Little Big Things is directed by Luke Sheppard and choreographed by Mark Smith, and Ed recorded some of the musical numbers at Abbey Road Studios, and performed with the cast at West End Live. Last year, Ed was understudy in Our Generation, having been part of the workshop previously, and whilst training as an actor, he was in the South West Regional UK Tour of Julius Caesar as Brutus. Ed has screen experience, having guest roles in Casualty as Jack Lamb and Doctors as Jack Stirling, which was his first job after finishing university. We recently caught up with Ed about starring as Henry Fraser in The Little Big Things, making his West End debut at @sohoplace and performing with the cast at West End Live.
You have recently opened in The Little Big Things at @sohoplace as Henry Fraser, how is the run going so far?
So far, the run has been going really well. The response from audiences have probably been better than I was ever expecting. People seem to be really responding passionately to the show and something clearly resonates with audiences who see it. I think this is probably to do with the idea of the human spirit and positivity that Henry shows in his outlook of life. The theme of family is also really important in the show, so I think it feels fairly universal in some of its themes for audiences. So, I think this has really helped people get on board with this show when they see it. Incredibly proud of the run so far and the responses we’ve been receiving.
How are you finding the experience working on the world premiere production and what has it been like seeing the reviews?
Working on a world premiere production has been amazing. For myself and the rest of the cast, to know that we are originating these roles and that this is the first version of this show is incredibly exciting and I feel honoured to be part of this show’s first outing. Working on a new show is also really rewarding because we have been able to create the characters and relationships on stage because there’s been no prior productions, we’ve really been able to devise the show, and this is helped massively by having the writing team and creatives in the room. Compared to some other processes, it’s felt incredibly collaborative.
Reading the reviews has been lovely, but I try not to get too bogged down on the reviews either positive or negative because art is subjective and just somebody’s opinion, so as a cast, we can’t really let them get to us too much and our job is just to tell the story. But hearing some of the positive responses online has been incredible and I feel honoured to tell this story and it’s a joy to know that people like it.
Can you tell us about The Little Big Things and your role of Henry Fraser?
The Little Big Things is a Sunday Times best-selling memoir by Henry Fraser. It tells his story of becoming injured on holiday in Portugal diving into the sea and hitting his head causing him to have a spinal cord injury. The memoir and show documents his road to recovery, and the difficulties and joy that that brings, leading to the point where he becomes a well-respected mouth artist. Not only this, but a large focus of the show is on the family and the impact the accident has on them and the strength they have as a family unit to rally around him and enable Henry to find joy in the little big things.
What was it like reading the script and meeting Henry Fraser for the first time, and how is it being directed by Luke Sheppard?
I’ve been attached to the show for just over a year and have read many iterations of the script. But the one thing I would say when I first read it was, firstly, how much I wanted to tell this story and hoping I got the chance to. And also what drew me in was the honesty the script had in it. It felt like one of the most authentic portrayals of disability I’d seen in a script, it wasn’t simplistic or overly inspirational. It was harsh, sad, and very, very funny. It felt like something new in terms of the way disability has been portrayed in the media, so it felt like a really unique opportunity and reading the script got me very excited.
Meeting Henry was an amazing thing. I met him probably about a week before we opened for previews, some may think this is slightly late but actually I think it was a good thing because I didn’t feel like I had to do my best Henry impression, I could craft the character on my own without having to feel like I needed to copy him. Also, this came from Henry himself, he talked to me about how he’d been sent scripts and some of the workshop footage but chose not to look at these, choosing to distance himself from the process and just experience it in full when it was ready to be seen. I feel very grateful for this and to know that he had that trust in me, the rest of the cast and creative team was an amazing feeling. I’m so glad he really enjoyed it!
Being directed by Luke has been fantastic, I can say personally that he is probably the best director I’ve worked under so far in my career. He is incredibly instinctive with his ideas and most of the time they stick. He also creates a really lovely environment to work in, it feels playful and not pressured, it feels OK to try things out and get things wrong. It was such an amazing rehearsal process to be involved in as we were shaping this new show together under Luke’s incredible direction. There was a real sense of trust in the vision that Luke had and rightly so because the world he created through his direction is really something and I’m incredibly proud to have worked with him.
What is Henry Fraser like to portray and how did you prepare for taking on the lead role?
Henry is a joy to portray. It’s a really interesting role to play because he is split between two actors, one being young Henry pre accident and myself post-accident. But what’s amazing about it is we are very much on stage together most of the time talking to each other and trying to navigate our emotions and how Henry moves forward with his life. Henry’s story is so amazing, and he goes through so much to get to where he is now in his life that it enables us as actors to really delve into different emotions so portraying Henry is an actor’s dream really in terms of the emotional places we go to. By the end of the show, it really does feel like quite a journey and for me to be at the heart of his journey is an absolute pleasure and I’m loving every second of it and feeling incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
How is it performing the choreography and musical numbers and what was it like recording songs for streaming platforms?
Performing the choreography and musical numbers has been a challenge in some ways as it is my first job performing musical theatre so combining these things in a professional environment is new to me but everyone around me was incredibly supportive in getting me to where it needed to be. The choreography itself is amazing. Mark Smith, our choreographer, is deaf, so the language he created for the show, in terms of movement language he described as The Little Big Things language. In this, he incorporated very lyrical movement, almost edging towards contemporary dance but weaved within this is a very clever use of British Sign Language. There is no reference to a deaf character in this show but there has always been an attempt at having disability in all aspects of the production, and BSL and Mark’s incredible choreography is a real nod to this attempt, and the world of disability and diversity that is at the heart of this show.
In terms of the musical numbers, quite simply it’s been fantastic to learn them and perform them. It is so nice to be able to have the music as an extension of the characters’ emotions – when they can’t say it, they sing it – and to be able to sing this amazing score every night is really something. I find music is a really good way of getting into the character or accessing an emotion so having a lot of the scenes underscored and, of course, having the musical numbers has been a great part in forming Henry’s character. As well as this, we have had the chance to release some of the songs on streaming platforms. To have some of this amazing music out in the world is an amazing thing and to have my name attached is a real privilege. Doing this show has opened a few doors and I’ve done things I wouldn’t have expected, including recording some of the songs, and being able to work at Abbey Road Studios for example, it was an experience I’ll never forget.
You performed with the cast at West End Live in June, how was this?
This was really something else! I knew of West End Live but had never been. It was an amazing opportunity for us to publicise the show and get people talking about it, but also it was an amazing moment for me personally as that was my first time performing any musical theatre professionally, so to sing the title track with the company in front of thousands and thousands of people was a pleasure, if not a little scary!
Is there anything you are enjoying most about making your West End debut in The Little Big Things and working with the rest of the cast?
I think the thing I’m enjoying most is being able to perform musical theatre. I always loved musical theatre growing up but never really saw it as an avenue I could go down. When I auditioned for my actor training, I did actually get into some places to study musical theatre, but I turned it down as I said to myself, how many wheelchair users do you see performing in musicals let alone the West End? The answer was no, you don’t see any, so I decided to broaden my chances in the industry and trained as an actor. So now, to have made my West End debut in musical theatre really feels like a full circle moment. The other thing I’ve loved is getting to tell this story every day and working with this amazing company. We’re all very close as most of us have been involved in this project for a while, it is a real team effort, I’d say we feel like a family.
Last year, you were an understudy in Our Generation for National Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre, what was the show like to be part of?
I was originally part of the workshop process for the show, so to be asked back to understudy for the Chichester Festival Theatre was so lovely, seeing some of the cast again and getting to experience this story.
What do you remember from your time playing Brutus in the South West Regional UK Tour of Julius Caesar?
Doing the regional tour of Julius Caesar was part of my actor training in my degree, so to get this hands-on experience was super useful in understanding what it takes to be involved in a show in a more professional capacity. Also, I was fortunate enough to play the lead role of Brutus. This was a real challenge for me but felt very fortunate to do it and it set me up well for future challenges.
You recently appeared on screen in an episode of Casualty as Jack Lamb, can you tell us about your character and how was it filming for the show?
Yeah, so quite recently I appeared on Casualty. It was amazing to be a small part of such an iconic show and a real experience of furthering my understanding of what it is to work in TV. The character was very Jack the Lad, quite cocky and basically in his storyline his cockiness came back to bite him when he sustained a broken wrist from a night out. It was a fun character to play and something that felt fairly detached from who I am as a person, so that is always a fun challenge. But my main takeaway was a learning experience as it furthered my understanding of the rigours of working in TV.
What was it like filming an episode of Doctors as Max Sterling?
Filming Doctors was my first job out of finishing university, and also it was during COVID so my main memories of this job were just being thankful to be working during what was a really difficult time for the industry. The character was great with lots of depth during the episode so I just felt grateful to be able to start my work in the industry quite quickly after graduating and during COVID. So, it felt like an incredible privilege to do it.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
I got into acting basically because I believe I was around eight and my parents wanted to find me something to do, wither a hobby or a club, and they found this drama group that happened every Friday and I kind of just fell in love with it. From there, it was a natural progression through school, I did it for my GCSEs, A-Levels and university. I was fortunate to be able to secure my agent and work with VisABLE People just before I began my university training and this has been amazing. They are such advocates for representation and really push me as a client to be the best I can be and get me in the best rooms possible in terms of work. So, VisABLE’s work have really helped propel my career forward. I’ve always loved acting but never believed I’d be able to pursue it as a full career so to be at this point now and be able to call it my job is amazing.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
Oh, that is a difficult question! My favourite films change all the time but at the moment I think my top three, in no particular order, is Hot Fuzz, La La Land and The Lighthouse. TV-wise, I really enjoy thrillers, but also have liked popular series such as Sex Education and Stranger Things. Now, I’m not sure I could pick theatre, I love most of it!
Have you been given any advice over your career so far that has stuck with you?
Advice I was given recently was to try and really enjoy what you’re doing currently. I think in the industry sometimes, your head’s always looking towards what’s next or when is the next audition coming. But to be in a job that I am in currently is quite often a rarity so I intend to embrace and enjoy the here and now, but with a hopeful eye to future work!
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