Yes, Prime Minister? More like no thank you, Prime Minister
Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio July 3 - 7

Steps, water and health and safety: The Only True History of Lizzie Finn

ClaraThe title of this play by Sebastian Barry at the Southwark Playhouse is certainly suggestive. 'Is our Lizzie misunderstood?' 'Does she come to some sort of tragic end?' 

Unfortunately it doesn't quite live up to the intrigue and I think staging played its part. The stage is three broad, deep steps with a channel of water making up a fourth, bottom step on which there are floating candles (pretty, but I'm not sure why). The narrative involves a lot of short scenes so it sometimes felt like the actors were spending more time running up and down the steps to enter and exit than actually telling the story. (If they get through the run without tripping it will be a miracle.)

Don't get me wrong, Lizzie has some lovely moments - bird call impressions are a very underrated art - and some fab lines in it but it felt very bitty. We first discover Irish Lizzie as a can-can style dancer in a music hall in Weston Super Mare. A chance meeting with a gentleman offers her a return to Ireland and a future she couldn't have imagined.

There are plenty of glimpses of Lizzie's tough past and her gentleman's war experiences and political leanings but not enough to fully connect with the characters and I confess that the denouement left me feeling 'is that it?'.

It is otherwise well done, the lighting is particularly atmospheric with lots of candles hanging above the stage in jars. There are also real flames licking up from a grille in the centre of the stage during the second half but, together with the water feature, these felt like unnecessary adornments and at times were quite distracting. It's amazing how transfixing a candle very slowly moving across water can be and long dresses swishing around exposed flames is just nerve-wracking.

Maybe Lizzie's true history would have been better presented a little more simply. I'm giving it three and a half stars. It runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 21 July.