LIZZIE ★★★★ Southwark Playhouse | Oct 26 - Dec 2, 2023


LIZZIE is ostensibly about one of the most famous trials in American history. In 1892, Lizzie Borden was accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe, and in 1893 the highly publicised trial took place. The creation of tabloid news and the public fascination with true crime stories can almost be directly traced to these events. It is a dark tale with undertones of emotional, physical and possibly sexual abuse. This 2009 version of Lizzie's story takes those events as a starting point and creates a wild, gothic rock and roll musical that is about harbouring secrets, being an outsider and female empowerment. While it is hard to avoid the comparison with SIX, this work actually preceded that phenomenal hit by several years. The hard working cast of LIZZIE really give it their all, delivering a series of catchy tunes that become instant earworms. "Forty Whacks" and "The House of Borden" will haunt the listener long after leaving the theatre, as will "Maybe Someday." Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt have created a pulsating score that the four super-energised actors do full justice. Lauren Drew is both wonderfully winsome and terrifying as Lizzie, and Shekinah McFarlane proves to be a real belter as sister Emma. Mairi Barclay brings great comic timing and another powerful voice to the role of the maid, Bridget, and Maiya Quansah-Breed is equally strong as Alice. Director and choreographer William Whelton keeps the show careening along with a high-octane choreography that never flags. All in all, LIZZIE is great macabre manic fun that also makes some sharp observations.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Pamela Raith

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