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Review: ‘The Last Five Years’ The Star Inn

Daniella Gibb as Cathy and Nick Wyschna as Jamie

By The Stage Dragon

If you had popped into The Star Inn on the High Street last night for a quiet drink, you might have been surprised to hear some rather soulful singing coming from the back room. It was the opening night of the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company’s first production, The Last Five Years.

In this snug, atmospheric space, a small but packed audience was treated to an intriguing first production from this new company, that has promised great things for the Guildford theatre scene.

With a cast of only two, and a script almost entirely in song, The Last Five Years (written by Jason Robert Brown), tells the story of the relationship between novelist Jamie (played by Nick Wyschna) and aspiring actress Cathy (Daniella Gibb). The play deals with how their relationship changes as Jamie finds success as a young novelist while Cathy struggles to find opportunities in her acting career.

A complicated relationship

However there is a complicated twist. While Jamie lives through the relationship chronologically, Cathy’s scenes are backwards. The couple never interact directly on stage, apart from in one scene where they exchange wedding vows and their timelines overlap.

It was an experimental play that could be a little confusing at times, but for the most part was a touching portrayal of the highs and pitfalls of a modern relationship. The concept of the difficulties a couple face when one rockets to success while the other flounders is one many modern couples can understand. The audience certainly enjoyed it, clapping after most of the songs, even a few cheers were heard occasionally.

Both Wyschna and Gibb had demanding roles, having to act alone and in song for the majority of their scenes, but they rose to the challenge exceptionally. Gibb had a captivating voice and gave an emotionally charged performance.

This was especially admirable when you remembered she was playing her character backwards and so could not really grow with the character. She had to work back from an abandoned wife with shattered dreams and a failing career to a hopeful young actress, head over heels in love.

Nick Wyschna dazzled with his singing

Wyschna also dazzled with his singing voice, and in both cases this was unsurprising as the pair have extensive musical theatre credits between them including hit West End shows such as Mamma Mia, Les Miserables and South Pacific. Wyschna bought real emotional depth to what might have been a bit of a one dimensional character.

The stage space was used well, both Wyschna and Gibb remaining on different sides of the stage for their solo scenes, meeting in the middle for the wedding scene they shared together. However the stage seemed a little cluttered.

A major issue was that the stage was not quite high enough. For the majority of the play this was fine, but occasionally the actors would sit on the edge of the stage disappearing to those at the back of the audience.

To add to the intimate feeling of the whole production, a complimentary drinks and nibbles reception was provided in the main bar of The Star Inn for the audience afterwards. A nice touch.

Altogether, it was a great demonstration of the kind of theatre that the Guildford Fringe Company wish to support, and a great start to their Guildford productions.

Daniella Gibb impresses in a challenging role

 

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