With a long-overdue revival, ‘The Last 5 Years’ returns, this time at the Southwark Playhouse: a production of Aria Entertainment, with Jonathan O'Boyle directing an impressive actor-musician show.
The story centres around a five-year relationship between Jamie (Oli Higginson) and Cathy (Molly Lynch), their ups and downs until the eventual demise. The concept of the relationship being told in chronological and reverse chronological order, starting at the beginning for Jamie and the end for Cathy, is genius: we’re able to see every exhilarating high and agonising low.
It’s almost impossible to go wrong when using the music of Jason Robert Brown. His music is incredible, a dream to listen to. If you simply follow the score nine times out of ten you’ll come out with the perfect show.
With a piano placed directly at the centre of the stage, the audience is almost over the top, and the performance space is subsequently smaller. This would always pose a challenge to capture an audience in such a small space. However, the duo excels. The fact one is playing the piano whilst the other one interacts and performs, not only shows their tremendous musical ability, but it adds a delicate intimacy between the two. It’s their story, their life and we’re just lucky enough to be present to watch it unravel.
In such a small space the band becomes quite loud at times, meaning the actors are almost overpowered. This does not affect the performance: Molly carries her voice consistently, clearly and effortlessly, as does her co-star Oli. His portrayal of Jamie is charming and oozes charisma; his audience interaction and varied expressions make him a pleasure to watch throughout.
If there’s anything to be noted that would seem remotely critical, it would be where Higginson grows in stature and his voice reflects the situations, Lynch does not. At times, she seems to hold back emotionally and her lowest point does not match with Jamie’s, making it harder to connect with or pity her. You can see she has the capability, but seems to not reach full potential emotionally. Nonetheless, she’s exceptional.
Beautiful story. Beautiful music. Beautiful lyrics. Beautiful show.
It runs until 28 March
Review: George Butler Photo: Pamela Raith