The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown is centred on the romantic tale of Cathy (Katie Garnett) and Jamie (Ross Telfer) and the struggles they encounter in their relationship. An intimate exploration of young love and heartache, the musical delves into the unseen with a focus on the points of as relationship the world would not normally see.
The set assisted greatly with the intimate nature of the piece. The use of a sofa centre stage and two separate desk areas allowed the audience to see the separate natures of the characters. The staging of the piece also assisted with the feeling of separation and lack of belonging that the characters felt throughout. Directors Harry Elleston and Georgie Wilmer should be praised for their utilisation of the space, making it a production which was unique to The Barn and as such giving the audience a good perspective and an appreciation of the space. In this way the intimate essence of the piece was successfully captured.
Mention must undoubtedly go to the four piece orchestra who were positioned at the back of the stage and were visible in silhouette, a nice touch that made for interesting backdrops behind the main action. Led by musical director Ryan Durkan, they should be highly commended for the amazing skill with which all of the pieces were played, which supported the actors beautifully and allowed for smooth transitions.
Garnett and Telfer are undoubtedly talented individuals. The vocal performance was exceptional throughout. Numbers such as “Still Hurting” and “The Schmuel Song” were truly able to show their excellence. However, despite the two having fantastic individual performances, a lack of genuine chemistry left the emotion feeling somewhat forced and the piece stilted in parts. As an audience member, you wanted to believe the pain and suffering they displayed but were unable to embrace the characters portrayal of events. Unfortunately, this led to the piece feeling more like a series of solos rather than a show in its own right.
Overall, The Last Five Years was technically very strong. All performances were well tackled but the couple just lacked a certain spark which is so essential in small cast productions.