Review: The Last Five Years
RACHEL CUNLIFFE loved this show, though argues it ‘should come with a warning attached: do not see this if you have ever had your heart broken’.
Tuesday 2nd – Saturday 6th, 7.45 at the Fitzpatrick Hall, Queens. £5
I wouldn’t have found Jamie, or Dan Garsin’s proclamation ‘I shouldn't care what she thinks since I can't fuck her anyway!’ so terrifying if I hadn’t been sitting three rows from the front and if he hadn’t stare directly at me. At this point in the musical, I actually sympathised.
The Last Five Years should come with a warning attached: do not see this if you have ever had your heart broken. That probably makes me sound like a pathetically teenage girl (the kind I have no sympathy for when they burst into tears during The Notebook), but the fact is that the script of this show plays off every insecurity we’ve ever had. It shows the breakdown of what ought to be the perfect relationship, except we never see it being perfect, since Jamie tells his side of the story chronologically, while Cathy tells hers in reverse.
It may sound like a cheap post-modernist attempt to make an otherwise boring storyline more interesting to watch. Actually, that’s exactly what it is. Neither Cathy nor Jamie are particularly exciting or real characters, and the plot seems non-existent: they fall in love, his career takes off, hers doesn’t, she gets jealous and clingy, he gets selfish and insensitive, they break up.
So what makes it so moving? Firstly, the score. While the plot may be lacking, the music is so gorgeous that nothing else matters, hauntingly beautiful in places, while dissonant and frenzied in others. It should be noted here that Catherine Harrison (Cathy) has a spectacular voice, making the first number ‘Still Hurting’ utterly spell-binding. Cathy’s songs in particular are hugely emotional, as we see her so positive about a marriage that’s already over.
And that’s what makes the show such a psychological rollercoaster, even knowing the ending. To begin with, all sympathies lie with Cathy and her desperate attempts to save a relationship with a man who seems arrogant, egotistical and heartless (‘Jamie’s convinced that the problems are mine’). But as it goes on, we see Jamie being incredibly sweet and supportive of a woman riddled with insecurities and irrationalities. The Jamie who laments in frustration the temptations he’s faced with (hence the yelling about not being able to fuck other women), is not the insensitive bastard Cathy made him out to be. When he later cheats on her, my feminist side wanted to be outraged, but I couldn’t help feeling it was Cathy’s fault for being neurotic and possessive, betraying my fourteen years at the most feminist all-girls school in the country.
This production is slick, beautifully lit, and the performances of both actors are deeply heartfelt, even if Garsin’s voice is no match for Harrison’s. I am very tentative to recommend it, leaving me too depressed afterwards to get any work done. At week 7, when everyone’s relationships (mine included) are starting to fall apart at the inevitable exam stress, this was the last thing I needed.