Get our free email newsletter with just one click

The Last Five Years review at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff – ‘visually and musically compelling’

Michael Hamway and Lauren Hood The Last Five Years at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Jason Robert Brown’s glorious 2001 musical, exploring a couple’s passionate yet doomed relationship from each partner’s perspective, has seen a number of recent revivals in the UK. Since 2015, there have been productions in Belfast, London and Edinburgh.

None of those, however, will have looked or felt quite like this exhilarating Welsh premiere directed by Angharad Lee.

Lee’s company, committed to promoting diversity in theatre, creates a version of Brown’s show that is as visually compelling as it is musically, utilising two D/deaf dancers, Raffie Julien and Anthony Snowden, choreographed by Mark Smith. The dancers play the more physical alter-egos of our tragic lovers Cathy and Jamie, simultaneously played and sung by Lauren Hood and Michael Hamway.

The company’s choice is not a gimmick. Hood and Hamway, and David Laugharne’s small band, are superb and this remains a poignantly rendered song-cycle. But the addition of dancers provides us with a physical manifestation of the lovers’ pain, as well as plenty of humour when they riff playfully with their vocal counterparts in more upbeat moments.

Becky Davies’ design is sparse but cleverly arranged, with a moment when the dancers find themselves trapped behind coloured screens especially affecting, unable to break through during the show’s heart-breaking final scenes.

This is a high-concept musical that plays with time-threads and miscommunication. Lee’s decision to create an additional layer to what is an already complex structure is a courageous one, but it pays off wonderfully.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Bold new production of Jason Robert Brown's poignant musical that delivers splendidly