The Last Five Years – Project Arts Centre – Review

The Last Five Years - Project Arts Centre

The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown – Review by Frank L.

Written in 2001, first performed in Chicago and then off-Broadway, New York in March 2002, The Last Five Years has been performed widely since then throughout the United States and beyond. Its success continues and a film has been made of it which is due to come out shortly. The story is of Cathy (Amy O’Dwyer) and Jamie ( Robert Bannon) , she an aspiring actor, he an aspiring writer, trying to make their individual ways in the competitive maelstrom of New York, who meet, fall in love and gradually over five years fall out of love.

Their story is told by means of fourteen ballads eleven of which are solo. They are accompanied by a four-piece band which led by Danny Forde, on keyboard, provide fine musical support. The set is simple with a collection of empty picture frames of various shapes and sizes hanging from the ceiling with a small two-seater sofa prominent towards the front of the stage which is moved around from time to time. Both Cathy and Jamie have their professional angst as they try to be noticed in the fierce competition of their chosen professions in New York. This ultimately creates strains between them.

What makes the telling of their well-trodden story out of the ordinary is that Cathy’s solo pieces start with the end of the relationship and gradually move to the beginning while Jamie’s are doing the opposite. Fortunately I was aware of this important detail before sitting down and I am far from sure I would have picked up on the fact if I had not been so aware. As a theatrical device, it helps to underline or emphasise the difficulties which grow between Cathy and Jamie as their lives diverge.

They are at all times in a different place from each other. The lyrics of the various songs are clever and contain some tricky rhythmical issues which require verbal dexterity in order to be delivered convincingly. Both Jamie and Cathy succeed on this level. More tricky was the idea that Jamie came from a Jewish background; he has a splendid piece to sing entitled Shiksa Goddess where he explains the difficulties his relationship with Cathy causes him within his Jewish family. It is important to keep firmly in your head when he sings this funny song that many Jewish people do not look like a Jewish stereotype and Bannon is certainly one of them.

Throughout Cathy wore a very quiet, simple, almost faded, duck-egg blue simple dress with a quietly embroidered in blue bodice and a waist band looking as if it was smock. It was fine but I had my doubts that it was the sort of garment that any aspiring actor would wear if she wanted to stand out from the rest of the hopefuls at an audition.

This is a musical which people, who have taken on board the changes that Sondheim wrought in the genre, will enjoy. What is somewhat chilling to realise for us in Dublin, an outpost in the world of the musical, is that it is thirteen years old.

 The Last Five Years runs at the Project Arts Centre until June 28th @ 8.15pm
Matinee 28 June (3.00pm)
Tickets €15/13

Cast & Creative Team:

Jamie: Rob Bannon
Cathy: Amy O’Dwyer

Director: Christopher Collins
MD: Dan Forde
Lighting/set design: Zia Holly
Costume: Orla Long

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