Monday, April 27, 2015


(L.- R) Mathew Chardon O'Dea and Josie Dunham (Wk 2)  -Vanessa De Jager and Fraser Findlay (wk.1)
Photograph: Pete Stiles
Director: Richard Block.  Musical Director: Damien Slingsby
Presented by: Dramatic Productions
Teatro Vivaldi - until May 3rd.

Opening night performance on April 24th reviewed by Bill Stephens

Canberra’s newest professional theatre company, Dramatic Productions makes an auspicious debut with this beautifully mounted presentation of Jason Robert Brown’s compelling chamber musical, “The Last Five Years”, showcasing the talents of four outstanding local music theatre performers, over two weeks. (Vanessa De Jager and Fraser Findlay – week 1 and Josie Dunham and Mathew Chardon O’Dea – Week 2)

Essentially a series of solos, “The Last Five Years” charts the love affair of struggling actress, Cathy (Vanessa De Jager), and her novelist lover, Jamie (Fraser Findlay). Their stories are told in reverse chronological order, which demands a deal of concentration from the audience.

Cathy begins the show at the end of the affair and traces events backwards until her first meeting with Jamie.  Jamie begins by reliving his first meeting with Cathy and tells his story in chronological order until their eventual break-up.  Their stories meet only in the middle of the show.

As Cathy, De Jager delivers an arresting, pitch-perfect performance.  The pathos of her heartbreak at the beginning is palpable. Her brilliantly bungled audition is hilarious, while her confusion at Jamie’s growing indifference is affecting.

Findlay’s portrayal of Jamie as a flamboyant egocentric, while technically admirable, is emotionally uninvolving. His best moment comes in the excellently staged “If I didn’t Believe in You” in which he tries to convince Cathy of his love for her. Rachel Thornton makes a brief, but telling, appearance as the mistress.

Thompson Quan Wing’s carefully detailed apartment setting, dominates the show, and indeed Teatro Vivaldi’s elegant dining room, but feels rather irrelevant,  given that most of the action of the piece takes place outside the apartment. Not even some imaginative directorial choices by director, Richard Block, could overcome resulting ambiguities.

An excellent five-piece ensemble, lead from the piano by Damien Slingsby survived some first night sound glitches, to provide superb accompaniment for this excellent inaugural production. 
            An edited version of this review published  CITY NEWS on April 25th 2015