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The Only True History of Lizzie Finn

Published Monday 2 July 2012 at 10:06 by Natasha Tripney

Sebastian Barry’s 1995 play - here receiving its UK premiere - is episodic in structure, unfolding in a series of short scenes, its narrative fragmented and choppy.

Lucy Black and Shereen Martin in The Only True History of Lizzie Finn at Southwark Playhouse, London

Lucy Black and Shereen Martin in The Only True History of Lizzie Finn at Southwark Playhouse, London Photo: Bronwen Sharp

Lizzie Finn, a successful and independently minded music hall performer of Irish descent, falls in love with Robert Gibson, an Irish soldier, the sole survivor of four brothers and not long back from the Boer War. They marry and return to his family home in Kerry where it rapidly becomes apparent that his background is very different to hers. The Gibsons are Anglo Irish landowners while Lizzie’s childhood was itinerant and tainted by poverty. But despite this fissure of class and identity, Barry avoids many of the expected sources of conflict - Lizzie and Robert’s love sustains them both.

Blanche McIntyre’s atmospheric production compensates for the play’s curious lack of narrative momentum. There are frequent fades to black, each scene more like a snapshot than the last. It’s attractively staged and lit, with floating flames flickering on water, and Shereen Martin and Justin Avoth are engaging as the two lovers, even though the characters as written can feel a little thin. In fact there’s a warmth to the production as a whole and while the choppiness can be frustrating and the writing at times has an edge of something approaching pastiche, it nonetheless casts a spell.

Production information

Southwark Playhouse, London, June 27-July 12

Sebastian Barry
Blanche McIntyre
Jagged Fence
Cast includes:
Shereen Martin, Justin Avoth, Karen Cogan, Penelope Beaumont, Lucy Black, Andrew Jarvis, Andrew Macklin, Oliver J Hembrough
Running time:
2hrs 15mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014