The TheatreguideLondon Review
The Only True History of Lizzie Finn
Southwark Playhouse Summer 2012
A nineteenth-century Irish lass is a can-can dancer in English music halls when she meets a Boer War veteran with a dark past. After a whirlwind courtship they return to Ireland, where she discovers he's the lord of a gone-to-seed manor. His family and friends look down their noses at both of them, but love conquers all.
It sounds like a Mills and Boon romance, but it's actually a 1995 play by Sebastian Barry.
There are some hints in the text that Barry is being ironic, consciously playing with the clichés to look at a rapidly changing society in a fresh way. But they are all but lost in this far too reverential and humourless production from Jagged Fence and director Blanche McIntyre.
Barry writes in a string of very short scenes, each providing one small piece of plot-forwarding information and then just stopping, and director McIntyre either fades to slow blackout or leaves her actors to find their way offstage, in either case destroying any rhythm or forward movement while too frequently giving the impression the lighting man has missed a cue.
As Lizzie, Shereen Martin seems uncertain whether she is to be spunky or stoically suffering, while Justin Avoth is for the most part stolidly solid as her husband, and the rest of the cast stand around looking uncomfortable or under-rehearsed.
It may be that the cast will settle in and find their characters and the director will be able to tighten things up as the run progresses. But right now, whatever virtues there may be in Barry's script just haven't been found and brought out.
Review - The Only True History of Lizzie Finn - Southwark Playhouse 2012
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