The Last 5 Years

Wed 7th – Sat 10th November 2012

reviews

Adam Gethin-Jones

at 22:56 on 7th Nov 2012

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Last Five Years was a seamless blend of soothing overtures, domestic naturalism and a good old seasoning of traditional musical theatrics.

Each musician deserves superlative commendation for their meticulous awareness to detail and creative vision: each note in key, each beat in time and each harmony artfully executed. Inconspicuously stowed at the back of the stage, the ensemble certainly embellished the undulating passions of the narrative and gently lead the audience from scene to scene.

Likewise, the portrayal of Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein was achieved with equal skill; both performers managed to mix complex rhythms with challenging melodies and still convey a strong sense of character. Indeed, Cathy was the most well-developed character, nibly navigating a diversity of emotional states while managing to maintain vocal clarity. Cathy was relatable, almost like the theatrical incarnation of Bridget Jones. At times one felt complete sympathy for her rotten life, stuck between a promiscuous husband and obtrusive auditioning panel. Then at other points one could laugh along with her truly human observations delivered with beautiful bathos. On the other hand, Jamie Wellerstein did, at times, seem a little too “Glee,” which jarred with the homely setting of the show.

The set designer resourcefully dressed the stage with a sofa, coffee table, hat-stand and carefully placed potted-plants giving the piece a casual atmosphere. Despite the attention to detail (from the original book covers to the incidental picture frames) I couldn't help but feel that the stage was still a little bare. I felt my eye needed something else to look at other than the ingeniously devised bed, evidently as uncomfortable as a table in disguise.

The lighting crew was quite fond of the technique of isolation, which accurately sculpted Jason Robert Brown's disruption of linear narratives. Yet, while this technique initially seemed refreshing and well-devised, it soon wore thin and made viewing the musical a perpetual turning of one's head from side to side.

All things considered, Corpus Christi Owlets's rendition of Last Five Years was orchestrated piece of theatre, which brought together the vital elements of a good, heartwarming show. That said, I felt a little frustrated as the crowd clapped and whistled. No thoughts were provoked, nor questions raised for the audience to confront, which seemed unfortunate considering the extent to which Brown's musical has the potential to challenge the very medium it expounds.

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Melita Cameron-Wood

at 01:25 on 8th Nov 2012

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Brimming with raw emotion and life, 'The Last Five Years', a Corpus Christi Owlets production, enjoyed an extremely successful opening night. The two-strong cast, Heather Young and Nick Barstow, kept the audience captivated throughout the entirety of the musical. The story conveyed through song, is accompanied by live music, which not only added atmosphere to the piece, but also mirrored and enhanced the emotional rollercoaster ensued.

The warmly lit intimate space allowed the audience to identify yet further with the characters that were easily recognisable everyday figures. Although the play essentially centred round the breakdown of a marriage, the sadness and human vulnerability are combined with irresistibly funny songs and genuinely heart-warming moments. The two actors/singers worked very well together and the relationship was very believable, due to the subtlety of their performances and the emotion behind their singing.

Minimalistic staging, clearly divided into two sections symbolises the growing gulf between the pair. The use of the coats and scarves on the coat-stand as a means of telling the tale was also particularly successful, particularly when Barstow imitated the character in his next book though use of these props, dancing and playfully teasing his wife. It is not only the impressive use of props, but equally the well choreographed movements, which served to render the piece a more professional rather than amateur quality. For example the actors are often stood back to back when singing yet again emphasizing the distance between the couple. This was particularly effective in the proposal scene when the actors moved in a circular fashion, back to back, also reflecting the cyclical, repetitive monotony of their relationship.

The directorial decisions were well thought through and helped to symbolise and enhance meaning, however there were occasional moments when some choreographed motions seemed to have been given a little too much weight, but these brief moments were few and far between.

It is also worth touching on the temporality of the piece; Cathy tells the story in reverse order, whereas Jamie begins at the start of the pair’s relationship, leaving the audience with the couple worlds apart at the end of the play, as at this point Cathy is happy about the prospect of married life together with Jamie, whereas Jamie despairingly writes his final farewell to his wife. All in all the last five years is a heart-rendering intimate depiction of the breakdown of a marriage carried out by two very accomplished actors and accompanied by a talented musical ensemble. The music and drama blend together to create a musical and dramatic delight, which whilst melancholy at times, is filled with a touching humour that makes the characters appear more human. In short a play of conflict and character complexity, a close up on relationships and the way in which fairytale endings are not necessarily akin to reality.

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