top of page

The Last 5 Years - Nellie Productions

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan


It is always nice to see new independent theatre companies striking out and putting on shows they love. Nellie Productions are doing just that, bringing "The Last 5 Years" to the Jonesway Theatre until the 26th of November. The 90-minute song-cycle style show, with no interval, is tailor-made for a weeknight escapade to the theatre.

Jason Robert Brown musicals require strong vocalists and the production team has selected well in Asha Perry and Elliot Peacock who both do well in their respective roles here. Perry shines in her later songs as Cathy Hiatt, with particular kudos to "Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence", which had the audience laughing and reflects a lot of performer's experiences, and "Goodbye Until Tomorrow" a poignant portrayal of youthful love's optimism. Peacock, on the flip side, captures hearts early on with the infectious joy of "Moving Too Fast" and the crowd-pleasing hilarity of "The Schmuel Song." Both performers do struggle slightly to connect with the numbers that reflect the latter, less optimistic years of the relationship, both feeling somewhat performative. The choices are by no means the wrong ones, still giving us emotional range, but there does feel like a disconnect between the content of these songs and the performer's own experiences.

Whilst the performances are strong, some of the directorial choices could benefit from fine-tuning, as they almost feel like they are working against the performers' natural choices. Some of the blocking feels very natural and realistic, such as in "If I Didn't Believe in You", but there is a lack of stillness in some of the more emotionally charged moments early on. This then means some of the more upbeat and fun moments feel over-blown and caricatured, where the core relationship could feel all the more real. However, the moments when the audience can connect with the performers are beautiful, especially when the performers look out into the audience and we get to see into their inner thoughts.

Musically, the show is elevated by a talented 5-piece band, ever-present at the rear of the stage. There are some balance issues between the instruments (with the keys often drowning out some of the quieter instruments), but they follow the performers well in some of the more free-form numbers. The modern-day costuming remains consistent, with subtle changes marking the passage of time.

There were some technical choices made in this show that did feel like they impinged on the performances. The main set piece, a very large wooden-framed bed, dominated the space even when it wasn't being used, and spread the performers apart so much that they felt disconnected even when they were referencing each other across time periods on the stage. There was also some instability when the performers were standing on the bed and other elements of the set, which made some of the strong stage pictures feel a little unstable. Whilst the use of stark white vs orange tones was a good idea to delineate the different times across the show, it needed to be clearer and stronger throughout the show to be as effective as intended. There were some clever use of spotlighting, but at other times the performers were in near darkness where they ought not have been. There were some mic issues on opening night, which made it difficult on occasion to hear the performers against the balance of the band, something that will likely be rectified later in the run.

In conclusion, Nellie Productions delivers a commendable debut show. While technical hiccups may linger, they are eclipsed by the vocal prowess displayed. Well worth a look.

Reviewer Note: Kate has previously worked with Musical Director Kieran Ridgway in 2022. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company


bottom of page