Boy meets girl, girl loses boy, love and marriage, two actors, three musicians and a simple set what could be more straightforward than that?
Well, it depends on the telling and in The Last Five Years the musical, complications ensue not only in the love story of Cathy and Jamie but in the fact one story goes forward and the other back.
The show is a cross between Ayckbourn's Time of My Life and Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along but still has plenty of originality going for it to make an exhilarating night at the theatre.
Much of the success of the show is thanks to Stephen Fletcher and Helen Carter, who not only play the only two roles but have also designed and directed. Both of them are hardworking, have great stage presence, undoubted talent and warm personalities that reach out to the audience.
The 80 minutes fly by (played through without interval) as they sing their way through their love story. Happy moments collide with the sad and our emotions along with theirs take a breathtaking rollercoaster of a ride.
Stephen Fletcher is excellent as Jamie as he moves from young and hopeful into the angry successful writer. It's a remarkable journey as he shows what the five years does to him. He sings a wide variety of songs brilliantly whether in sad, angry or funny mode. "The Schmuel Song" is a wonderful piece of virtuoso storytelling in music.
Helen Carter can certainly belt out a song and is particularly good when showing the pain and anger behind the words she is singing. Her audition song is a delight striking all the chords with any actor.
Nick Phillips does a fantastic job as MD and on keyboards with great support from Emily Roe and Luke More as his ‘orchestra'!
The Last Five Years may lack the wit and poignancy of Sondheim but it has a lot of profound and thought-provoking things to say about relationships whilst being highly entertaining.
Stephen Fletcher, Helen Carter and Life in Theatre Productions deserve thanks and support for bringing something fresh to Liverpool.
- Richard Woodward