A performance full to the brim with raw honesty, this is a show that anyone can find something to relate to within.
Newly redeveloped for a UK tour from an original performance in 2018, Five Years tells the story of writer and performer Neal Pike’s years at a special educational needs school during his adolescence. The collection of stories presented follows a roughly chronological look through Pike’s school years, completed by the occasional interjection of a witty remark or a hard-hitting life lesson. These keep the play moving at the perfect pace, drawing the audience’s attention to one story before moving onto the next. The stage and lighting were also used very effectively to make the changes of scene neat and clear. While Pike was narrating the story from his own perspective, his use of body language to identify different characters from his past was incredibly well done. These thoughtful nuances weren’t picked up on immediately, but once identifiable it was easy to look for the fiddle of an invisible Rubiks Cube to indicate one character and hands shoved in pockets to mimic another.
Even though the play is focused around a special needs school, something clear from beginning to end was how much Foxwood school was like any other school. Pike’s tales of teenage antics can resonate with anyone regardless of their ability and education, full of both nostalgic warmth and the occasional chill that will take you more unwillingly back to your own days of youth. But there are moments that are specific to the play’s central theme of disability, something important not to overlook. The commentary on what it is to be considered ‘special needs’ hits home in a way that only a personal account can ever do and was brilliantly compelling to listen to.
Five Years is a truly personal and unique story that has so much heart in its script, and the level of honesty in which it tell the rarely-seen perspective of disabilities in theatre is something that theatre needs much more of.