The Last Five Years
West End star Peter Corry brings the story of a troubled marriage to the North West.
Belfast-born, West End sensation Peter Corry sang at the funeral of football legend George Best and played Inspector Javert in the musical Les Misérables. Yet he describes appearing on the Playhouse stage in Kieran Griffith's production of The Last Five Years as his 'biggest challenge yet'.
The musical uses a non-linear storyline to trace the five-year relationship of a husband and wife, Jamie (Corry) and Kathy (Michelle Forbes).
'My character, Jamie, is a cocky sort, a successful author who’s trying to keep a marriage together,' Corry says. 'And in this play, you’ll see whether or not he manages it. It all depends on the pressure surrounding him.'
Corry admits that while some people might side against his character, he is 'aiming to associate with him, to see things from his point of view. It reminds me of when I had to think of a way of defending Sweeney Todd’s behaviour!'
Corry has always enjoyed performing in Derry, and describes the Playhouse as perfect for an intimate grown-up musical like The Last Five Years.
'I’m very grateful to Kieran for inviting me to do this particular show,' he says. 'It’s regarded throughout the musical fraternity as being a show of great importance and substance.'
His co-star, Strabane-born teacher Michelle Forbes, is equally delighted to have landed a high profile role in the play. She says, 'I was getting itchy feet at not having done any kind of acting work for a year. So when Kieran rang me and said, "I hope you’re not leaving the country in September!" I grasped the opportunity with both hands.'
She’s particularly happy to be portraying such a multi-faceted, realistic character as Kathy. 'It makes a change from the more one-dimensional, saccharine and sweet individuals I’ve played in the past, like Hope in Anything Goes and Sarah in Guys And Dolls.'
Michelle was surprised to find how much depth, relevance and realism there was in the production. 'We feel that this is one of those shows where audiences can both enjoy the singing and leave the theatre with something to think about.'
She adds that she’s also thrilled to be performing in Derry again. 'I feel like part of the furniture.'
Director Kieran Griffiths shares his stars’ excitement about the show, describing the score and lyrics as among the best he’s heard so far in musical theatre.
He says, 'I wanted a crack at the show because I wanted to change the way it was staged and presented. It’s actually a very personal play. The writer, Jason Robert Brown, was taken to court by his wife after one of the songs hit a little too close to home. That’s what puts this play at the opposite end of the scale from so many musicals.'
Hence, Kieran set out to 'mine for information', instructing Peter and Michelle to get inside their characters’ shoes and make them real people. And he’s happy to report that rehearsals have gone very well. 'I’m working with two very seasoned and willing performers with unquestionable singing voices. It’ll be very exciting to hear the finished product.'
Kieran adds that bringing the play to Derry is really important to him, describing the city as the artistic hub of the North West. 'We’ve brought an indigenous performer from Belfast, and he has mixed with an alarming amount of talent.' Such talent includes musical director Sarah Loughridge, who is handling the musical’s difficult score 'with aplomb' at the tender age of 21.
Kieran concludes: 'It’s all about what we can do for Derry on both a personal and professional level.'
The Last Five Years runs from September 21 - 24 at The Playhouse Theatre, Derry/Londonderry. Book tickets here.