The Last Five Years – The Musical ✹✹✹✹
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre
Until Saturday 12th May 2018
Written and composed by Jason Robert Brown
Alphabetti has established itself as part of the cultural fabric of Tyneside. Boasting a programme of shows costing less than £10 each, it has pushed for value for money without losing sight of what makes a good theatrical experience for the audience. Until tonight Alphabetti had not put on a musical and this 2-hander, from Oxi Moron, seems particularly suited to the venue’s scale.
Melanie Carss appears as Cathy, a struggling actor at the end of a relationship with her husband. Meanwhile Jamie, played by Gram Cumming, appears 5 years earlier as he spots Cathy on Tinder and he sets up a date. Thus we see Cathy at significant points in their relationship heading backwards through time whilst Jamie visits the same points going forward. The only point that the 2 actors interact together is on a park bench as Jamie proposes marriage.
To help identify the stages in their relationship various frames (photo frames perhaps?) are scattered about the set labelled with dates. The performers using these as a base for each episode. The effect is like pieces moving around a board game.
Melanie Carss has a lovely voice and she portrays the struggling performer Cathy well. She is engaging for the audience, as the action moves in reverse and hence her character increases in optimism. Gram Cummings fills in the gaps in the story line as he gives the other side. It would be easy to come across as self-centred in the tale of a writer finding success in his work and forming a relationship. Gram manages to be plausible as his career takes off and his mother disapproves of a relationship outside of his religion and culture. It is easy to believe that they are/had been a couple, even if they don’t interact directly with one another for the bulk of the 80 minutes.
Providing the live music was Tim Jasper on piano. He was tucked away on the side of the venue out of sight of my seat and I had wondered at first if his music was pre-recorded at first. I soon realised it was live as the action paused for the applause between songs.
The show is an interesting one, virtually sung through in its entirety; lacking interaction between protagonists and the resultant warmth. It does stand out as something different. It was good to watch but I’m not sure if I’d want to see the opposing timelines done again in another show. Gram and Melanie hit the right note as the relationship goes through it’s life cycle. It is also easy to see why this musical is often quoted as a favourite by many. This is an opera for the Tinder generation.
Review by Stephen Oliver
Show begins: 7.30pm
Tickets: £8.00 https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/235546
Age recommendation: 14+