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Theatre Review: The Last Five Years

This play presents another example of a risk averse post-pandemic West End and it should do better than that

Oli Higginson and Molly Lynch in The Last Five Years. Credit: Helen Maybanks

The Last Five Years
Garrick Theatre, London, till Oct 17

There was a big fuss made of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years when it ran for two sell-out seasons more than a decade ago at the Southwark Playhouse in south London, but then audiences outside the West End are often more appreciative, not least because they pay less for tickets.

This amounts to more of a cabaret performance, rather than straight theatre, with its two principals, Oli Higginson and Molly Lynch, taking turns to sit at a piano (tellingly a Yamaha rather than a Steinway) to belt out a succession of songs.

If you didn’t know it was a show about the trials and tribulations of two New Yorkers in a relationship, I doubt you’d necessarily have figured it out very quickly. It took me a while, too, to see what the set designer Lee Newby was doing with the giant illuminated L, 5 and Y that dominate the stage: ah yes, the first letters and the numeral of the show’s title, how clever.

It is true there is a brittle, Sondheimian edge to some of the lyrics – I’m Still Hurting, Goodbye Until Tomorrow and I Can Do Better Than That among them – and Higginson and Lynch have wonderful voices and a great sense of stagecraft, but, for all that, I still found Jonathan O’Boyle’s production boring and bewildering.

It felt like a much less ambitious stab at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s account of souring relationships in Tell Me on a Sunday, and of course it’s yet another example of the risk averse post-pandemic West End regurgitating old material rather than daring to put on anything new or remotely relevant.

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