SLAMS' latest offering, Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, opens at the Knox Community Arts Centre tonight. We had a chat with Tyson Legg who is playing one half of the cast – Jamie Wellerstein.
TP: In your own words can you tell us a little about the show?
TL: The Last Five Years is an interesting love story that focuses on the 5-year romance of a guy and a girl. While on the surface it may seem familiar, it's different because the guy starts at the start and travels to end of the relationship and the girl starts at the end and travels to start. It's an interesting spin on clichéd story that allows for different perspectives on stage.
Jacqueline Levitas &Tyson Legg
TP: You've had a very short rehearsal period for this show (2 weeks). Has everything been very self-directed or how did it work?
TL: Luckily Jac and I knew the music quite well already so rehearsals with Roland [Brache – MD] have been more about the style he's looking for than note-bashing. Blocking has been quite a communal effort. Julia had an idea of how she wanted each scene set and the intention but she's given us room as performers to add our own inflections and made sure that we were comfortable with the short amount of time we had rather than being bogged down in over- blocking. It's been an intense couple of weeks but also very rewarding as you know that we've all contributed to these characters.
TP: Were you originally cast in the show or did you come in at late notice?
TL: No I wasn't. I'm not sure of the original guy's name but through some kind of circumstance I believe he became quite unwell so when Julia rang me, which was really nice of her, I thought if I said no I might never have the chance to do the show again so I thought I'd throw myself in and go for it!
TP: TP: TP: TP: JRB was sued by his ex-wife because the show too closely resembled their own relationship – does Cathy and Jamie's relationship relate to any of your own life (excluding the [spoiler alert] cheating bit)?
TL: I think anyone who's had a relationship end can connect with this show but there's certainly similarities. There's the giddyness of meeting someone new plus the sadder points of the show that, while not directly relatable, are those moments like missing someone after you've spent that much time with them.
TP: How well do you and Jamie get along? Are you very similar or is there a personality clash?
TL: He's actually come fairly easily in the sense that I have a few relatable qualities. We're both driven for a certain level of success as well as looking for 'the one' in their life. That makes him a very easily relatable character. The only thing I had to create was finding a reason for what he eventually does. I didn't want him to come across as unreasonable or as a villain. Ultimately [both Jamie and Cathy] are victims of circumstance. The difficult part is still having him appear sympathetic in spite of his actions.
Although it doesn't appear like he's doing it to be deliberately spiteful or vindictive. Both Jamie and Cathy fall into their own traps and Jamie lets himself go in a moment of weakness where as Cathy pushes too hard in a moment of weakness. The actions we see are not the complete definition of who they are as people. You have to acknowledge that both characters make mistakes in the relationship. Sure, Jamie's are more tangible but you have to acknowledge that both characters didn't behave in a supportive way towards the other.
We had to create parts of the relationship that you maybe don't discover until five years in. Jamie and Cathy couldn't avoid where that final one-and-a-half years took them but whether it was avoidable from the start is up to debate.
TP: You're working alongside Jacqui Levitas – how has she been to work with, especially on such an intimate show?
TL: TL: She's great, I'm really appreciating what she's bringing to the character – she has a really natural style. We've discussed nearly everything together and we're both quite defensive of our own characters. For the show to work Jamie can't blame Cathy but he needs it for the catalyst for what he does. I think that standing by your own character whilst respecting the other creates the most natural portrayal.
TP:TP: How're you feeling overall? What are you most excited about?
TL: We're really excited about singing this score. Both of us have such admiration for the music and to have the opportunity to sing roughly eight songs each by an incredible composer, we're both very excited and humbled by that opportunity.
The Last Five Years opens tonight – full info. here.