The Last Five Years

Last Five Years image

The Last Five Years: Shelley Theatre, Boscombe. Saturday, 23rd July.

Taking on award-winning musical The Last Five Years is a brave move by Arena Theatre.  The company has again and again shown its versatility but this production must have proved a real challenge.

For it involves not just performing Jason Robert Brown’s deceptively complex Off-Broadway triumph but taking possession of its twists, turns and nuances as it mercilessly deconstructs a failed relationship between two young New Yorkers.

With the excellent James Dixon-Box and up and coming Elizabeth Bradley in the leading roles, Arena makes the show its own. A small live band provide the wonderfully emotive score,

The couple - rising author Jamie Wellerstein and struggling actor Cathy Hiatt - fall in and out of love. In parallel stories running in opposite directions and set against simple but effective stage designs - I particularly liked the evocation of Central Park Lake - we see their hopes, their dreams and shattered illusions laid bare.

As Jamie’s literary career goes from success to success, Cathy struggles to make her mark on the world of theatre. He is excited and impatient. She feels neglected and despondent. The tensions are predictable and the score exposes their triumphs and disappointments - the envy, resentment and pride that gradually tears their relationship apart. If that sounds rather bleak, don’t worry, it is not without humour.

Under director Abby Batchelor the company does a grand job of capturing the essence of this very human story about two imperfect beings wondering whatever happened to their perfect relationship.

*Arena Theatre’s The Last Five Years goes on to play the Forest Arts Centre at New Milton on Saturday 30 July and The Mowlem Theatre in Swanage on Saturday 13 August.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022