The Last 5 Years, Southwark Playhouse

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By Joanna Trainor

Jamie Wellerstein is the ultimate fuckboi.

You know it’s true, but you always forget it until you’re watching the show. You’re all happy to be his Shiksa Goddess, and swooning over his proposal and then – BAM! “I’m sorry I slept with someone else, you should have paid more attention.” Well no Jamie, that’s not acceptable behaviour, is it?

It makes it trickier when Oli Higginson has this extraordinary voice that just pours out of him. As he hops onto the piano as Schmuel’s sassy clock or throws himself around the stage in his delight at meeting Cathy. Higginson has this vivacious energy that draws you into him and is quintessentially Jamie.

The piano is the centre piece of this production. Jamie and Cathy are literally the orchestrators of each others’ happiness and pain as the actor-musicians accompany the exceptional band upstairs. There are a few moments where the stage piano is meant to start with the keyboard upstairs and it’s not quite in time, but the metaphor works so nicely it doesn’t matter. Also George Dyer is the most enthusiastic keyboardist and Musical Director you will ever see, it’s an absolute joy to watch him play.

For fellow JRB nerds, this production uses the updated film lyrics – poor Tom Cruise. And, interestingly, in “A Miracle Would Happen” the lyric “this pair of breasts walks by and smiles at you”, is replaced with “this gorgeous woman…”. It’s completely understandable as to why the creative team have taken this decision, but actually Jamie often displays misogynistic behaviour and it doesn’t seem at all out of character for him to be objectifying women in this way.

Jamie’s negative tendencies are far more obvious towards the end of the musical because by contrast, Molly Lynch’s Cathy is so sweet natured and funny, like properly laugh-out-loud funny. I can’t remember hearing an audience ever laugh like that at The Last 5 Years. Cathy can often feel quite miserable and a bit of a stick in a mud, but that just doesn’t come across here. Lynch is the most beautiful singer, and talented pianist and ukulele player, and quite frankly she deserves better.

The Last 5 Years is one of those musicals that is always going to pull an audience, because it’s difficult to do a bad job with the magic Jason Robert Brown has written. But this production is something extra special in the way it explores the depth of the characters, offers new insights into Cathy and Jamie’s relationship and utilises all the skills of two incredibly talented peformers.

The Last 5 Years runs through 28 March.

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