TAKING on award-winning musical The Last Five Years is a brave move by Arena Theatre. The company has again and again shown its versatility but this production must have proved a real challenge.

For it involves not just performing Jason Robert Brown’s deceptively complex Off-Broadway triumph but taking possession of its twists, turns and nuances as it mercilessly deconstructs a failed relationship between two young New Yorkers.

With James Dixon-Box and Elizabeth Bradley in the leading roles and a small live band providing the wonderfully emotive score, Arena makes the show its own.

The couple - rising author Jamie Wellerstein and struggling actor Cathy Hiatt - fall in and out of love. In parallel stories running in opposite directions and set against simple but effective stage designs - I particularly liked the evocation of Central Park Lake - we see their hopes, their dreams and shattered illusions.

As Jamie’s literary career goes from success to success, Cathy struggles to make her mark on the world of theatre. The score explores their triumphs and disappointments - the envy, resentment and pride that gradually tears their relationship apart. If that sounds rather bleak, don’t worry, it is not without humour.

Under director Abby Batchelor the company does a grand job of capturing the essence of this very human story abut two imperfect beings wondering whatever happened to their perfect relationship.

*Arena Theatre’s The Last Five Years goes on to play Forest Arts at New Milton on Saturday, July 30 and The Mowlem Theatre in Swanage on Saturday, August 13.