Saturday, 15 December 2018

Mixed-up romance provokes thought and healthy debate

The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years

The Studio, New Street

Sunday, October 27

BY the time we reach a certain age we’ve all had the relationship we thought was “it” — then it ended.

If this statement touches a nerve with you then you should go and see this show, the first musical to be presented in the HAODS studio next door to the Kenton.

I was pleased to be invited to the dress rehearsal to see Poppy Carter and Joe Evans take on the roles of Jamie and Cathy, under the unfussy direction of Andy Smith. They delivered an unimpeachably pleasant and highly emotional evening.

The show is an X-shaped narrative where the two stories are told from opposite ends — Jamie starting at the beginning of the relationship and Cathy at the end. This seems confusing at first, but it presents us with a richer and deeper investigation into the two characters.

Poppy begins with one of the most heartbreaking numbers in musical theatre, I’m Still Hurting. She has us hooked from the start, delivering a crackling portrayal of the neurotic Cathy, her creativity and emotional needs lost in the wake of her husband’s increasingly successful career.

Joe’s Jamie Wellerstein is not as smug as some past productions have made him out to be. As a natural born winner, ego is baked into the cake of this character, but on this occasion it is tempered by self-awareness and a stillness on stage that is very comfortable to watch.

His character does not have the same levels of emotional anguish to play with that Cathy does, which casts him naturally in the role of peacemaker. But he leaves us plenty of space to read between the lines and figure out what is really going on in his head, showing us more than simply what the lyrics give away.

In the middle of the action and splitting the stage in two is a neat four-piece band led by Andy Smith on piano, with Chloe Chatwin and Tom Oldfield on violin and cello respectively, and Pete Moore laying down a funky bass part. The band is the third cast member in this musical, and we are not let down or overpowered by their presence.

After the performance, conversation was rife as to who was victim and who was villain, with a surprisingly even split each way. Both characters are flawed — but are they both blameless? I wonder if all males will side with Jamie and all females with Cathy, but I hope there is a less obvious divide as the story goes deeper than this, the characters mirroring parts of us we don’t necessarily like to see or be seen.

The songs are great, the acting spot-on and the atmosphere is intimate. But more than this, The Last Five Years certainly gets people talking. If you enjoy being challenged, or witnessing great performances on stage, this production is for you.

lContinues at the Studio to Saturday, November 2.

Tickets from Kenton box office.

Robert Sterling

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