The Last Five Years (Movie, 2015)

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Happy New Year. After nine months of my new job, I finally have the mental bandwidth to blog again – and what better way to start 2016 than watching musicals on the sofa?

The Last Five Years came out on limited release in early 2015, stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan and is a 90 minute song cycle. It’s a small budget interpretation of Jason Robert Brown’s 2001 two person musical following the relationship of twenty something New Yorkers Jamie & Cathy.

The unique structure has confused many, but in my opinion is one of the most effective elements of the show (once you get your head around it). It takes alternate songs from each of the protagonist’s perspectives – Cathy progresses from the end of the five years to the beginning, whilst Jamie’s songs are chronological. They cross over in the middle song (the only time when they are at the same point in their narratives), and much of the connection to the storyline comes from seeing the whirlwind beginning of their romance juxtaposed with it’s gruelling decline.

It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d urge anyone who loves musicals but hates sickly-sweet romcoms to give it a shot. If you do connect with this sort of thing you’ll be be swept away by the excitement and energy of the courtship, and the sadness of its end. Fantastically performed, it shows off Jason Robert Brown’s complicated score at it’s best.

I, for one, will be making a new tradition of sitting down and watching it every New Year’s day (and maybe a couple of times in between). Happy 2016 peeps.

Addendum:

The Last Five Years has had a very special place in my heart for the past 10 years, since discovering it during a cabaret at university. Still Hurting was such a powerful story and appealed to my 20 year old self, two years into my latest stretch of singledom, feeling all the feels and thinking that the protagonists were pretty old (23-28, ha!).

I listened to the album constantly and every word seeped into my brain. When I started singing lessons in 2010, Nobody Needs to Know was the first song  that I sang. I got my sister addicted, and dragged her along to see a production in a tiny theatre in Turnham Green in 2011. Last year, I laid in her East Village apartment and watched the movie for the first time on her iPad, slightly anxious with anticipation.

Life has changed a lot in the last 10 years – I’ve overtaken Jamie & Cathy in age, I’ve found that love that they are after and my sister is now a real Shiksa Goddess living in New York. Those cabarets reminded me of my love of musical theatre, that singing lesson led me to my wonderful choir, and the trip to Turnham Green inspired a review that became this very blog. At this contemplative time of year somehow it all seems connected to this musical.

Just like a great novel, my understanding and sympathy for each character has ebbed and flowed with my life stage. Whilst I hope that 2016 brings many new things, it’s great to go back to the old ones from time to time. The last decade with L5Y have taught me so much. Here’s to the next one.

The Last Five Years is available to buy/rent now. I watched it on Amazon Prime.

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How I Learned to Drive – Southwark Playhouse until 14th March 2015

How I Learned to Drive

 

 

A great little play with a wonderful cast, exploring the challenges and dangers of growing up with family.

This was my first time at the new Southwark Playhouse, located a stone’s throw from Elephant & Castle on the delightful Newington Causeway. Despite the main road outside, it’s a great venue – a cross between the Young Vic and a back-to-basic Shoreditch bar, a quirky environment with personality which (thankfully) feels a million miles from the overpriced, soulless drinking options within West End theatres.

After the nice wine (£3.30 a glass! I’ll definitely be back…) we were ushered into the ‘Little’ theatre – they run two plays a night here, starting 30 minutes apart. A simple set took us back to 1960s Maryland and we were introduced to the world of L’il Bit, who told us the story of learing to grow up and her relationship with her Uncle Peck in fractured flashbacks.

In a way the cast mirrored the set – five fantastic individuals did a great job of fulfilling many purposes. Apart from Olivia Poulet (L’il Bit, you’ll recognise her from The Thick of It) and William Ellis (Uncle Peck), the ‘chorus’ jumped from one character to another, and did so to great effect, drawing vivid portraits of the difficult individuals that made up L’il Bit’s family and world.

How I Learned to Drive is tale of growing up, from a range of perspectives – as each piece of the jigsaw slots into place it becomes clear how and why each ended up as damaged and in the position they did. It’s a great play, excellently executed, telling a complex tale without slipping into the realm of the obscure. Highly recommended.