It’s the beginning of a new term here at York, and that can only mean one thing – that DramaSoc are back with a brand new season of shows. Last week, they opened with a show I didn’t get a chance to see, but luckily I got to see their second show of the season: The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. Co-directed by Harry Elletson and Georgie Wilmer, I was excited to see their take on the musical.
The Last Five Years tells the story of a five-year relationship between writer Jamie (Ross Telfer) and struggling actress Cathy (Katie Garnett). But this isn’t your average soppy, humdrum rom-com musical; we see both characters’ stories told in different chronological orders. Cathy’s is told from the end of their relationship, and Jamie’s from the start of it, with the only time they directly interact being in the middle of their narratives. This can take a bit of getting used to, but it’s a narrative structure that’s interesting and engaging, and makes this musical stand out from the crowd.
Both performers execute Elletson and Wilmer’s vision of the production excellently – we clearly see the shift in demeanour, attitude and chemistry at various points throughout the narrative, which helps us to keep track of where we are in each character’s story. Garnett’s singing is clear and characterful, while Telfer makes a great accompaniment to her. Their characters are clearly thought out and performed well, although at points I couldn’t help but feel their energy dropped. This made a couple of scenes drag a bit, and made everything a tad less engaging. Maybe that’s because it was the first night, but it’s certainly clear that these performers have nothing to be nervous about – their performances in the second act were awesome.
While the performances from these two are great, it’s definitely worth making a point about the music and lighting. The small team of musicians behind the Barn’s curtain orchestrate Brown’s soaring musical score, full of catchy and characterful songs that seem a sound fit for these two performers. Simple changes in lighting help to shift the mood of the production and indicate changes in scenery and atmosphere that accompany parts of the narrative perfectly. Everything is neatly tied together to create a cosy, compact scenography that lends itself well to the equally cosy Drama Barn.
This production of The Last Five Years is of a brilliant standard; it makes for highly watchable theatre and is a great example of the results of hard work from all aspects of a production team and company. With talented performers, great songs and a well-considered scenography, this is one DramaSoc show you should definitely check out.
The Last Five Years is playing at the Drama Barn until 18 October. For more information and tickets, visit the York University Drama Soc website. Photo: Gavin Pattison.