Review: The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years – St James Theatre Until 3rd December


‘deserving of a West End transfer’

For those that don’t know this is a two-hander musical telling the story of a married couple from each of their own prospective. However the difference being is that each of them start from the opposite end and work their way back/forward of The Last Five Years.

The premise is clever, and once you understand, you can really enjoy the journey through time. Thanks to a pal of mine telling me this before entering, I got my head around it very quickly so I thought I’d impart this valuable knowledge to those unfamiliar with this show.

Photo Credit Pamela Raith

Photo Credit Pamela Raith


The Last Five Years is an emotionally powerful and intimate musical telling the story of Jamie (Jonathan Bailey) and Cathy (Samantha Barks), two New Yorkers in their twenties who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. As aspiring author Jamie gets the book deal of his dreams, actress Cathy struggles to get work and make sense of the way her career has turned out. Can a couple once united by their dreams stay connected as their paths begin to divide? Known for its unique structure, The Last Five Years sees their stories told in opposite directions; Jamie moving forwards and Cathy backwards through their relationship, meeting only briefly for a moment in time as their stories cross.

Simplistic staging with a visible mezzanine containing the orchestra means that nothing detracts from Bailey and Barks superb performances. The power force of Barks vocals gives way to the desperation and euphoria in equal measures of the beginning and journey of her character. You feel her struggles and disappointments of her career and her heartache is palpable.

Jonathan Bailey has a unique ability to make you fall in and out of love with him. His endearing qualities that won the heart of his wife (Barks) are evident and then as the realisation hits that he is less than faithful, he evokes a feeling of disdain for his character. Credit to Bailey, who draws out these feelings in a relatively short musical.

Photo Credit Pamela Raith

Photo Credit Pamela Raith

All of this culminating with the exquisite score (Jason Robert Brown) which I truly fell in love with, meant that this really does deserve a West End transfer. The beauty of this production is that the traits of the characters are real and you can empathise with the joy of falling in love, devastating heart-break of a lost love, or battle to save a marriage. The scene when their stories collided and they interacted with each other showed immense chemistry between Barks and Bailey.

Not knowing this show, meant I could lose myself within it, immerse myself, cry and rejoice in its beauty, the glorious music and perfectly rounded performances.

On until 3rd December at St James Theatre I encourage you to pay a visit, but maybe invest in waterproof mascara if you wear it?

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