The third week of term sees the arrival of The Last Five Years
Co-directed by Harry Elletson and Georgie Wilmer, the musical tells the story of two young lovers, Jamie (Ross Telfer) and Cathy (Katie Garnett), from their first meeting to their break up five years later. Cathy’s story is told in reverse, contrasting the narrative of Jamie’s. Through this, we watch as the couple simultaneously get together, separate, and go through the highs and lows of young love and breakup. We see their trajectories cross at their wedding, then continue in opposite directions until their first and last day again.
The production of the story was dominated by heart-touching romance; it utilised the simplistic setting and settled in for a warmer tone. The result was that it captured your attention with ease. Though there is no lack of ambition, as four musicians on stage accompanied the talented actors, and an intricate set suited the intimate atmosphere of the Drama Barn. Only the clocks on the wall didn’t quite work here: there needed to be more to fully cover the walls and convincingly pulled off the intention, which the rest of the production achieved. The costumes were deceptively simple, but a single base for one, and two for the other, served a real purpose throughout the play, fitted perfectly to each scene, and, extraordinarily, allowing for the development of age and maturity to be illustrated clearly. The lighting, controlled by Brendan Shanahan, was stylised, effective and, what was even more impressive, in sync with the rest of the fairly naturalistic design.
Photo courtesy of Gavin Pattison
The acting and mise-en-scène were competent, controlled, and drew the audience in. It was clear that the directors put a lot of thought and research into how they blocked the play, and had a good command of the techniques that they employed. The result was unpretentious and flowing – although the need for the overwhelming number of entrances and exits was questionable. The acting was fantastically delivered throughout and came through the singing beautifully. Katie Garnett and Ross Telfer, with all their talent, could have relaxed a little more, but it is always daunting as preview-show nerves were clearly present. There were times where the American accents and the volume of the music made it hard to understand all of the lyrics, though my only real criticism of the direction was the choice to have both actors together on-stage throughout the majority of the action (though all but one of the songs were solos). The choice was understandable, given the motive of exploring their relationship, but I would have like to see a more clearly defined line between the two. For a play that speaks of love and heartbreak, it shouldn’t be so easy, or so incidental, for them to approach one another. With less frequent spatial intimacy, the marriage, the kiss, the dance, and the crossing of timelines would have more impact.
The script appeared to be fairly difficult in the first half. Though the songs were pleasing and compelling, very little seemed to actually happen. Despite a few complications and the frustration from Cathy, the uneventful first half was difficult to entertain the audience for over half an hour. The second half was more eventful, thus leading to some more engaging actions. The story was fairly difficult to follow for those who were unfamiliar with the musical, and a few more clues to locate us in the characters’ respective timelines could have made the viewing more comfortable.
I would like to give a special commendation to all of the musicians, led by Ryan Durkan – who contributed to the show in brilliant fashion; the show was powered just by them. Musicals produced by DramaSoc cost an extra pound, and The Last Five Years is worth the extra pound. The atmosphere of the play left the audience happy and replete. Though some details could be improved upon, the strength of its emotion permeating every element, its fluidity, and its intimacy, is what makes this production one to remember.
*The Last Five Years is running from 15th-18th October, at the Drama Barn, University of York.
Tickets available via YUSU or on the door.