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a little life

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duration n.n.b.
premiere 23 Sep 2018


No book has captivated and moved millions of readers during the past few years like A little life by American author Hanya Yanagihara.


In this worldwide bestseller, we watch four men over a period of more than thirty years: lawyer Jude, actor Willem, visual artist JB and architect Malcolm. The story is the history of their friendship, as they remain closely connected with each other during the rest of their lives. They develop their careers in the city where ambition and success are the indicators of a successful life: New York.

The main character is the introverted Jude. His past is wrapped in a veil of mystery. Behind the façade of professional success, he lives with unresolved grief as a result of emotional neglect and sexual abuse during his childhood. It has left him with extreme distrust and a feeling of worthlessness. He finds release in compulsive automutilation, causing his body to become more and more exhausted.

How do you live with trauma and pain? Jude has no family, his friends are everything to him. Nevertheless, he finds it impossible to share his past with them. The closer someone gets, the more difficult it is for him to talk about it. For Jude, openness and surrender are equal to abuse. In a constellation like that, intimacy becomes an impossible task. Can friendship provide compensation for the incurred damage? Is it possible to have a romantic relationship without sex? What is love actually able to do?

Jude’s friends are facing a dilemma. How can you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, while realizing you’re not a real friend if you don’t try to help?


Ivo van Hove about A Little Life

‘Reading A little life is much more than just reading a book. It’s a destructive descent into areas of pure pain, pure loneliness, pure helplessness, pure friendship. Chillingly sincere, but also full of love, albeit without any sentimentality, Hanya Yanagihara describes an entire life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, death. From the first abuse at age nine, Jude lives in that moment of trauma for the rest of his life. A trauma where he is completely alone, feels completely alone. Deliverance is not possible for Jude. There is a reason why his personal anthem is Mahler’s ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen/ Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben’, I have become lost to the world with which I used to waste much time. His friends do all they can to make Jude happy, but he is no longer able to embrace the good. Love and friendship don’t conquer all. A little life poses questions about good and evil, about how to deal with losing whom you really love. But also about the contemporary tyranny of being happy, about the connection we automatically make between love and sexuality. In A little life, sexuality is a destructive power.’


Hanya Yanagihara: ‘Just over a year ago, Ivo and I talked for the first time. He saw the book as an allegory of good and evil. I didn’t see it like that at all. During our first conversation, he talked about his ideas about how he wants to transport the book to the stage. And that is exactly what I’m curious about when someone wants to adapt the book to another art form; how will they use their medium to tell the story. It has to be an interpretation, not a literal translation. The book requires total surrender from the reader. And it will be the same with the play. This is the case with all of Ivo’s work. The stage adaptation of A little life will invite the audience to be humble, attentive and actively involved. The spectator will be challenged. And he will be rewarded. I hope this play will let people see the book in a new light. Maybe I will also see the book differently. Thanks to adaptations like Ivo’s play, the book and its characters are given a much longer life than I originally expected. I consider that a great gift.’

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