This article includes reference to abuse and self-harm that some viewers may find distressing.


A Little Life stormed onto the West End in 2023, bringing to life the devastating novel by Hanya Yanagihara of the same name.

Fresh from Happy Valley's finale, James Norton gave a career-best performance as Jude – a lawyer whose childhood was riddled with psychological and sexual abuse. As a result of this trauma, Jude self-harms, something that takes centre stage in the play.

The three-hour and 40-minute run time saw some audience members have to leave the theatre and even projectile vomit at times, something that wasn't any easier on Norton returning to the play night after night.

Speaking to press at the Olivier Awards, Norton admitted that A Little Life was "the hardest thing" he has "ever done" in his life.

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He said: "For us to be here representing the show is lovely. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life [but] it was also the most rewarding. So to end up here is just a lovely way end to it."

James Norton in a dark coloured outfit looking ahead. He has curly hair and has light stubble on his chin and jawline
James Norton. Alan Chapman/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Norton was nominated for Best Actor at the coveted ceremony, but lost out to Mark Gatiss, who took home the trophy for his role in The Motive and the Cue at the National Theatre.

Norton wasn't the only nod to A Little Life, with his co-stars Luke Thompson and Zubin Varla both nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

The play saw critics split on their opinion, with some praising Norton's "courageous performance", while others called the play "deeply troubling".

Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times gave the show three stars, saying "the story becomes a relentless pile-up of pain and physical suffering".

Neil Norman of the Daily Express awarded the play five stars, describing it as "industrial strength theatre for theatregoers".

For information and support on dealing with self-harm, please visit MIND or call MIND's confidential Infoline on 0300 123 3393.

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