Thursday, 22 November 2018

REVIEW: The Last Five Years - Albert Halls, Bolton.

The stunning Albert Halls in Bolton with its impressive transformed theatre space hosted its first in-house production since its majestic multi-million pounds renovation which has created a grandiose 670 seat theatre.

‘The Last Five Years’ Musical is an Albert Halls Bolton Production in association with G&J Productions written and produced by Jason Robert Brown which was his third major show of his career, for which he wrote the book as well as songs. Inspired by his own personal failed first marriage, the show is a two-person musical which tells the history of a relationship from two different perspectives.

The first showing in 2002 received mixed reviews and wasn’t a commercial success only lasting two months off-Broadway, but has gone on to having a film version of the show featuring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan in 2015. Following the success of the film the show returned to the West End in 2016 starring Jonathan Bailey and Samantha Barks where they played the roles of Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein.

Tonight the roles were played by Stephanie Clift and Sam Lupton who put their own interpretation on the musical directed by James Edgington, a Manchester Metropolitan University graduate who now successfully owns his own theatre production company. Brown’s musical tells of Cathy and Jamie’s 5 year relationship but with a twist as the male narrative begins at the beginning of the story and progresses through marriage, infidelity and divorce whilst the female narrative begins at the end of the relationship and ends with the couple’s first date only interacting on stage at midpoint during their wedding sequence. Edgington’s direction saw the two actors on stage together throughout the show continually interacting with each other and simultaneously telling their tale from the termination of their relationship to their initial meet.

The staging was created in the middle of the theatre space with the audience seated around the entire stage like an arena theatre which to me personally always seems like a mammoth undertaking when a production is performed as the cast have to utilise their skills to deliver a performance in a 360 degree capacity, ensuring that each part of the audience can hear and see their theatrical presentation.

Unfortunately with this beautiful 670 seat auditorium it proved to be too ambitious as it was incredibly hard to hear the lyrics or keep sight of the stunning Stephanie and Jamie, I missed so much of the dialogue that it finished up with me just visually watching them perform as it was impossible to follow the plot or lyrics as the speakers were not effective in allowing the audience to hear sufficiently especially those like myself who were positioned behind the large free standing speakers. Another technical issue was that we were seated below the automated lighting fixtures and they made quite a lot of noise as they moved which again hindered any chance of hearing the songs.

What we did witness however was two fabulous actors enthusiastically and convincingly delivering their interpretation of the roles of Cathy and Jamie with compassion and chemistry; it’s just such a tragedy that I was unable to hear or see them fully throughout this show, as the musical itself has huge potential and I loved how they have installed their own perception on this Jason Robert Brown’s version of ‘The Last Five Years’.

Verdict: too many technical problems for a rewarding theatre-in-the-round production.

Reviewer - Katie Leicester
on - 21/11/18

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