MUSICAL REVIEW: The Last Five Years ★★★★

The Last Five Years
The Large, Southwark Playhouse
Friday 28th February - Monday 16th March 2020

In result of what is very much unprecedented times for the whole world, Aria Entertainment’s two hander production of The Last Five Years marked it’s final short-lived performance on the evening of Monday 16th March, a whole 12 days early to it’s planned departure. Having attended it’s last performance before The Southwark Playhouse announced it was to close their doors for the foreseeable future, I can confirm that there was most certainly an atmosphere that can be hard to describe, as all of us who were stood within the foyer were even unsure as to whether the following performance was to go ahead.  Ultimately the story of Cathy and Jamie did indeed occur, and most certainly will have been an evening of mixed emotions that none of us in that auditorium will ever forget.

Famously featuring Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kenrdick in the 2014 Film Adaption, The Last Five Years cites the five year relationship between Jamie (Oli Higginson) and Cathy (Molly Lynch), and is unlike any other musical in fact that it’s concept sees the characters journeys told in a non-parallel fashion; Jamie’s events are told in chronological order (From when the Couple First Met), whilst Cathy’s version is in reverse, from the bitter end of her marriage to her husband. The only time that their timelines cross in the whole act is with their wedding number ‘The Next Ten Minutes’ as they dance together and physical are intimate with each other in what feels like only a split second, before they are torn apart and speak to the air around them once again as the other takes a back seat from the stage to watch on. Though we have at this point already familiarised ourselves with the events unfolding, what’s refreshing and keeps the story progressing is the idea that we now hear the other side of the story, which furthermore throws curve balls, and in some cases connects the dots, along the way.

All set upon a revolve with a grand piano as it’s centre piece, Lee Newby’s use of imagery holds the key to this production; with a single ring placed delicately upon its surface, Higginson and Lynch were both mesmerising as they flowed through Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics, all inspired by his real life divorce settlement with his wife at the time of writing and composing the book. Both showcasing their immense musical talents, they effortlessly play for each other's numbers through the use of the glistening piano, whilst also throwing themselves about the stage in Jonathan O’Boyle’s eccentric direction. Frankly put, this production gives Higginson and Lynch a chance to royally shine as individuals rather than a partnership due to the show’s nature, and they are both captivating in their whole right.

Lynch especially convey’s strength in her angst as she struggles with her auditioning process, whilst Higginson’s ability to bring Jamie to life as an author who is grappling with his relationship adds a tension to his devine performance, with Jamie’s storyline eventually becoming the one that we as an audience fully reason with why Cathy’s actions at the start of the production are downbeat and heartbroken. It’s the final number of the show though, Goodbye Until Tomorrow (Cathy) / I Could Never Rescue You (Jamie), that parallels the most distinctive similarity between the pair as they both say goodbye; One from the moment following their first date, to the other unable to say their final words due of hopelessness, through Newby’s two portals formed either side of the stage.

Overall, The Last Five Years is a tale of love and heartbreak that collide at a speed in which never fails to slip. Though some may leave confused if not familiar with it’s unique concept, this adaption will overwhelmingly please it’s fanbase; having not heard the soundtrack before the evening’s performance, I can at least say that it has found a new fan in the form of myself, and my only hope is that this production will return to the stage in some capacity once the worry in the world fades over so that it can once again inspire and capture new hearts to it’s rather honest betrayal of relationships and the stress in which each one brings.


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