Saturday, 17 October 2020

REVIEW: The Last Five Years at the Southwark Playhouse

The Last Five Years at the Southwark Playhouse received rave reviews with numerous 5-star ratings flying around, with the Southwark Playhouse being a breeding ground for incredible revivals there was no doubt in my mind that this one would live up to the reviews it received, and it certainly did! 

Following a couple, Cathy and Jamie, we watch the journey of their relationship unfold on stage but in a very unique way. Cathy's side of the story is told backwards and Jamie tells his from beginning to end. Similar to that of Merrily We Roll along, of which I personally am not a fan of, this form of storytelling is used wonderfully in this piece. 

Only familiar with a couple of the songs (bad musical theatre fan!), I was really interested in seeing this piece in its entirety. The use of Cathy's story being told backwards was such a powerful tool in the storytelling, as it unfolds you understand the pain and hurt but also, as they’re told separately, begin to form your own opinion of what you’re seeing. 

Being a huge fan of Jonathan O’Boyle, his work on this musical certainly does not disappoint. There is so much in this piece that is so thorough and detailed that this review could easily be a 27-page analysis. But I won’t bore you, all I have to say is see it for yourself. 
As far as the safety of the venue, Southwark have pulled out all the stops. With screens separating each bubble, mandatory masks to be worn throughout, social distancing in the toilets and a one-way system which although is fairly laborious it is necessary and I would deal with so much more to experience this incredible show. I must also thank the front of house team, the screens were spotless! They must spend a long time cleaning these but we, the audience, thank you! No distraction whatsoever. 

Starring Molly Lynch and Oli Higginson, they are such a gorgeous duo. Lynch is truly one of the most talented actresses I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing, a truly versatile performer with an incredible range. Her performance is delicate and real with each moment standing out, her comedy was equally as good as her more emotional moments, making the perfectly balanced performance. Sherie Rene Scott is shaking in her boots! 

Oli Higginson, in his musical debut, has the performance skills of someone beyond his years and experience. Having only graduated from drama school in 2019, his performance was simply exquisite. Although his character may be written in a not so likeable manner, his charm and energy win the audience over. His voice is made for this score, not a note is missed and his chemistry with Lynch, although very little interaction actually happens between the two, is magnificent. 

Not only are their performances brilliant, but they also manage to juggle all that's going on whilst playing musical instruments and they do all this on a revolve. They took that challenge head-on and also made it look so easy!  
Lee Newby, designer of the show, has transformed this square barn-like space into a stunning view that would not be out of place in London fashion week. It is stylish and helps manoeuvre the story in such a wonderful way. This is such a delicate story and he takes that into consideration, it is not distracting or too lavish that we start to lose focus. Instead, it centres the action and contributes to the story. 

This show is honestly one of the best things you’ll see, such detailed and stunning performances with stunning visuals. O’Boyle has crafted this show to a tee. This is definitely the best show you’ll see this year, maybe even this decade.  

 Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Price of Ticket: £27.50
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