The Last Five Years

Wed 12th – Sat 15th October 2016


Clare Cavenagh

at 14:10 on 13th Oct 2016



The Last Five Years made me slightly doubt the existence of true love. This show, tucked unobtrusively into the ADC late slot is a veritable rollercoaster of an experience. It ranged from bitter, incomprehensible tragedy to heady romance to raucous comedy. With a great cast of two, an excellent band and a soundtrack which will make you weep in the gym, The Last Five Years is an emotionally exhausting, but ultimately fulfilling, way to spend ninety minutes.

This show has an astonishing ability to utterly destroy your idealism. It tells the story of the end of a five-year relationship between up-and-coming novelist Jamie, and aspiring musical theatre actress Cathy. The part that really gets you though is the show's unusual structure - Cathy begins at the end and moves backwards, Jamie begins at the start and moves forwards. This structure effectively meant that the audience had to live through Jamie and Cathy's tragic breakup not once but twice.

Cathy was played by Lucy Dickson with sensitivity and humour. Dickson did an excellent job of communicating Cathy's sadness through her singing, finding an original take on these moments. She was also charming and funny in the show's lighter moments. The show was somewhat stolen by Robin Franklin as Jamie however. In the opening numbers, as he began his forwards-journey towards the ending, Franklin displayed superb comic abilities, wringing all the humour out of the songs, and dancing his way across the stage to the utter delight of the audience. Equally, in the later sections, he managed to portray darker, less likeable parts of Jamie's personality just as convincingly.

The band, led by musical director Harry Castle, did a wonderful job too, playing through Jason Robert Brown's score with flair and ease. The singing from Dickson and Franklin was equally assured, and from a musical point of view, this show was a pleasure. I suspect that the soundtrack may be playing frequently in my room for the next little while.

The one flaw in this otherwise highly enjoyable production was the fact that from a visual point of view it often felt un-engaging and uninspired. The staging was constrained by the late-show time slot, and there was an interesting effect created with a screen onto which shadows were projected, but this technique felt under-utilised. The visual interest of this show came purely from the physicality of the two actors. And this was admirably provided, by Franklin in particular, but it would have been nice for them to have a little help.

If you've never seen The Last Five Years, I highly recommend you go along to this production. With a fantastic band, a great cast, and a story which will have you in stitches one minute and in tears the next, it packs a huge amount into an hour and a half. Take some tissues, take a friend, and brace yourself!


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