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The Last Five Years (Liverpool)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Hard to believe this show, which has now been brought bang up to date, was first performed over 10 years ago. While parts seem predictable, it takes some innovative steps for a musical. Boy meets girl, of course, but though Cathy and Jamie are equally talented and ambitious, his is the classic overnight success, and over the last five years, this inevitably takes its toll.

Interestingly for a drama about a relationship, they are together for a couple of scenes only; the focus on their own perspectives. A pianist (the excellent Nick Phillips, who is also the musical director) is a constant presence, and there are no props other than a platform and a very large suitcase; it's all done with wires, aka costume changes.

More relevant, then, to focus on the actors, Helen Carter and Stephen Fletcher, both of whom perform splendidly and with passion: magnificent singing voices, completely credible accents and a nifty line (indeed) with comedy. Unfortunately, the hero is truly the Golden Boy with absolutely everything falling into his lap, and by comparison, despite Cathy being almost unbelievably unlucky, she sometimes appears grass-green with jealousy. It is difficult to feel much sympathy for somebody so hard-done-by, which robs the inevitable conclusion of poignance.

Each of them takes it in turns to sing, with Cathy going back in time, making for an unusual, and occasionally confusing, structure. And a couple of Jamie's songs, whilst entertaining, and enlightening, seem a little contrived. But there's no denying the wit in the lyrics.

Perhaps an unusual choice for a show in downtown Liverpool but it did come as a pleasant surprise on a miserable summer's night; a little masterpiece.

- by Carole Baldock


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