Saturday, 17 June 2017

Theatre Review: The Last Five Years

Image Source: Epstein Theatre
Written By: Scott Gunnion

Format: Musical
Genre: Drama
Date: June 15 2017
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool, England

As always, I go into these things with hopes both high and burdened; burdened, I concede, by my own prejudices.

The premise sounded familiar. An actor and a writer fall in and out of love. Their story told from both perspectives. It sounded very La La Land, I sneered, even though the material pre-dates the well-known film.

Then I read that the two leads were a real-life couple. Again, I sneered: "Artists". I thought immediately of how every film George Clooney gets his hands on turns out to be a pious passion piece about some obscure political subject nobody in the mainstream really cares or wants to hear about.

But I like to be proved wrong.

Jamie (Graham Tudour) tells his story from the start, Cathy (Helen Noble) from the end, and eventually they meet in the middle. This was sometimes hard to follow, and I felt that, with a different structure, the finished product could have been better and much more accessible.

The story was entirely in song. To be frank, it was a joy to watch.

You soon get past the syrupy fake American accents and find yourself bowled over by the two leads and their imposing vocal talents which were impressive and to be commended.

Helen Noble, who played Cathy, had killer legs. It was hard not to be distracted, though sometimes I felt that the story behind her narrative wasn't entirely clear. Again, a flawed structure. I criticise, yet what I felt was pure enjoyment from start to finish. Far from perfect, the entire performance was nothing less than immensely infectious. And clocking in at 90 minutes in length (without interval), it amounted to a succinct retelling of love and loss, heartache and pain.

I entered a healthy sceptic, but left with a massive smile (on the inside, at least) and a spring in my step.

The staging and set were minimalist, but used effectively. Regardless, all the attention was on the two actors; the only actors in the performance, I should point out.

And entirely in song? How could one not fall in love. Or at least wobble at the prospect.

The Last Five Years never made it to Broadway, but has done the rounds on the American theatre scene. I felt that the two leads were trying to champion a hitherto un-championed musical that, might otherwise go forgotten and unappreciated. I wish them well because the performance I saw was more than worthy of big audiences and big applause.

Alas, there were no happy ending for the characters on stage, but as a theatregoer, you leave the theatre having been treated to a real gem.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good