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Small Island

adapted by Helen Edmundson
based on the novel by Andrea Levy

Playing until 10 August
Running Time: Approx. 3hrs 10min including 20min interval

Small Island

Andrea Levy’s epic, Orange Prize-winning novel bursts to new life on the Olivier stage. A company of 40 tells a story which journeys from Jamaica to Britain, through the Second World War to 1948 – the year the HMT Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury.

Adapted for the stage by Helen EdmundsonSmall Island follows three intricately connected stories. Hortense yearns for a new life away from rural Jamaica, Gilbert dreams of becoming a lawyer, and Queenie longs to escape her Lincolnshire roots. Hope and humanity meet stubborn reality as the play traces the tangled history of Jamaica and the UK.

National Theatre Live broadcast on Thu 27 June
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£20 Friday Rush and £15/£18 Day Tickets are also available for sold out performances.

Please note: This production contains strobe-like effects. 
Also, as part of depicting the experience of Jamaican immigrants to Britain after the Second World War, at times characters in the play use language which is racially offensive; for more information please contact us via our Help centre.


Production supported by Areté Foundation / Betsy & Ed Cohen

The footage used from 'Terminus 1961' and 'West Indies Calling' is Crown copyright and is reproduced with the permission of The British Film Institute under delegated authority from The Keeper of Public Records.

 All other archive footage courtesy of British Pathé.


Talks and events

Actors Leah Harvey and Aisling Loftus Fri 31 May, 3pm
Director Rufus Norris and adapter Helen Edmundson on Small Island, chaired by Brenda Emmanus Tue 11 June, 6pm
War to Windrush: Black Women in Britain 1939–1948 Mon 17 June, 6pm
A Hole in Babylon – Talk on Horace Ové’s work and film screening, Fri 12 July, 6.30pm
Standing on the Shoulders: Black Women Actors in the UK from 1950s–1980s, Sat 20 July, 2pm
Designing Small Island with Katrina Lindsay, Mon 22 July, 5pm
Familiar Stranger - A conversation with The Stuart Hall Foundation, Wed 24 July, 6pm

Exhibition: Ronan Mckenzie photographs, 3 May to September

5 star rating

One of the most important plays of the year. Superb production. Outstanding performances. Andrea Levy’s epic makes momentous theatre.

5 star rating

Epic and inspiring. Exceptional performances. Small Island has found its ideal home.

Daily Telegraph
5 star rating

Extraordinary. Charming performances. Spectacular adaptation of Andrea Levy's Windrush novel.

5 star rating

Powerful. Rufus Norris’s effortlessly enjoyable production is everything a show should be. It speaks to all of us, today.

5 star rating

A big smash hit. Resonant, funny and moving. A wonderful production.

Mail on Sunday
4 star rating

A gripping story of the Windrush generation. The acting is superb. A vital production.

The Times
4 star rating

Lavish and moving stage adaptation of the late Andrea Levy's great novel about the Windrush generation.

Time Out
4 star rating

Spectacular. Windrush epic unfurls beautifully.

Daily Mail
4 star rating

Breathtaking. An all-encompassing and absorbing production. A play for today.

What's On Stage
4 star rating

Staged with its warmth and poignancy. Rufus Norris balances moments of fragile intimacy and scenes of sweeping breadth.

Evening Standard

Small Island | Cast visit to Black Cultural Archives

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Small Island | Windrush passenger Alford Gardner visits rehearsals

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Small Island | Rehearsal gallery

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People wearing Smart Caption Glasses at a performance in the theatre