In 2016, I was a fresh face at GrapevineLIVE – excited to get more involved with the local live entertainment scene and if my memory serves correctly, within the first month on the job I got offered to do my first regional review for Grapevine, and it was a small show called The Last Five Years at the New Wolsey theatre, Ipswich.
It was a show I knew little about prior to that first trip in 2016, but soon grew to love. I saw its New Wolsey run twice, and I’ve since seen the film a good handful of times, played the cast recordings and soundtracks repeatedly, watched a ‘lockdown livestream’ earlier this year, and a couple of weeks ago I caught the latest production over at Southwark Playhouse in London. Whilst I’m aware it’s a little bit out of the region, I wanted to cover it because I think it’s such a great show, that can work perfectly in these times, and I believe it’s important to share the positives of successful shows in amidst these strange times.
The show is comprised of two characters, Jamie and Cathy, both of whom tell their perspective of their five year relationship through song. The uniqueness is that Cathy starts by telling it from the end of the relationship, while Jamie runs from the start to end – and you pick up a couple of clever intertwined cross-overs. It may not be a show that everyone ‘gets’, but regardless it’s an interesting look at human interactions, relationships and feelings. I think most people can apply at least bits of the story to their own lives. I personally think the music is beautiful and very clever storytelling, full of wit, heart and emotion.
This particular production was excellent. Molly Blynch as Cathy and Oli Higginson as Jamie just made a wonderful pairing. I really loved the way they moved through the intimate space. It’s such a minimalist show, yet includes so many wonderful little details.
I also want to applaud the Southwark Playhouse – not least for being one of a small percentage of venues opening, but also for the commitment to making the venue Covid-secure. One way systems, masks, audience flow monitored, distanced queues, perspex screens between seating bubbles, digital tickets and programmes and more were all part of the safety measures in place. While getting used to this new ‘normal’ is still a bit surreal, it felt safe and allows for a night of escapism and entertainment. It’s a little bit of light in the dark, so if you can, are able and feel comfortable, please do get out to your local (or nearby) venues and support them. For we must keep proving the arts is viable and essential. Just keep safe and sensible in the process!