The Last Five Years (and the next?)

Published June 27, 2020

Theatre is one of the biggest things I’m missing in this lockdown, and although the country is (rightly or wrongly) easing out of lockdown status, theatres aren’t looking set to open anytime soon. And if they did, would we be comfortable enough to go to them?

In the meantime, and because there is zero support from the government, theatres and artists are having to find their own ways to keep busy and hopefully make a little money to keep going a bit longer. The National Theatre’s weekly streams of their plays have been incredible, although are coming to an end soon.

I was very impressed with how quickly Lambert Jackson jumped into the gap with live streams of west end singers doing sets from the comfort of their own homes. Called Leave a Light On, the series ran for several weeks featuring a host of great performers and was a hastily organised but very clever way of keeping theatre in the public eye.

Number Five

With that over, their next project was a lockdown production of The Last Five Years. I was only vaguely aware of this musical, having seen a trailer for the Anna Kendrick adaptation but never getting round to watching the movie. Reading the synopsis, it’s like this was made for a lockdown situation - a couple tell the story of their relationship but she is telling it in reverse, and he is telling it chronologically, so they never interact except for one small brief moment in the middle.

Streaming for three nights (tonight being the last) and at a very reasonable price, the show is cleverly worked to piece together the fragments of this ultimately sad tale. Lauren Samuels (also director) and Danny Becker are excellent in the title roles, grabbing the screen and portraying a very believable couple despite never actually being in the same room.

I had a slight problem with the audio - I don’t mind it being a bit echoey or whatever, as obviously production quality is hard locked up at home, but there were some inconsistencies that were a bit jarring. Nevertheless, it’s such an impressive thing, to have produced, recorded and streamed this musical in lockdown that I would watch it seven times over regardless.

Obviously, live streaming isn’t the future of theatre. There’s nothing quite like sitting in the auditorium as the house lights go down. But this is a good solution to the situation we’re in at the moment, and as the government don’t seem keen on lending a helping hand to the struggling arts industry, I’m happy to support projects like this whenever and wherever I can.

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