Iphigenia In Splott

In Greek mythology, princess Iphigenia is the eldest daughter of King Agamemnon, sacrificed to the goddess Artemis in order to allow her father’s warships to sail off to Troy. Admittedly, some versions include a last-minute rescue by Artemis herself, but Iphigenia symbolises a young woman sacrificed for the supposed greater good of her community.

Without a doubt, director Rachel O’Riordan has expertly brought the show together compactly and effectively.

In this sharply-written, powerfully-delivered monologue from Gary Owen, a pitch-perfect Sophie Melville becomes our modern Welsh equivalent. Effie is more than happy to live up to her “stupid slag, nasty skank” self-description, not least with her unending cycle of three-day hangovers that are as much a badge of honour as a perverse survival technique to get through the week. She believes that we owe her, however; she’s here to collect.

Yet the only actual payment Effie appears to want is our attention. The story she tells starts one Monday morning at 11.35am when, against all expectation, she wakes up sober. A few altercations on the dog-shit covered street soon get her fired up for an afternoon’s smoking and shagging with her “prick” of a boyfriend Kev. So far, so chav-spotting; but it’s that evening on the town which ensures Effie’s story gets more interesting.

Essentially, she goes home with ex-soldier Lee, who’s been invalided out of the Army after an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blew away his lower leg. Suddenly, for the first time, Effie feels that she is genuinely not alone; more, that she has a purpose in life, to make Lee better. Afterwards, back in her flat and waiting days, then weeks for him to text or call, she’s absolutely sober.

This is no fairy tale; that said, many a woman in a Greek myth, she does end up pregnant. This is where we begin to get some genuine dramatic conflict, as Effie starts to pull herself out from her old world of drugs and alcohol – albeit not without complaints about losing control of her own body to the baby inside. Sadly, while it’s already been a bit of a rough ride, there’s little surprise that life’s going to get even rougher.

Against Hayley Grindle’s plain black set, with only a “broken venetian blind” (made of white neon tubes) and three chairs, our focus is always on Melville’s eyes-to-the-audience performance. Sam Jones’s soundscape is so subtle that it’s barely noticeable, but always ready to support and guide us emotionally through Effie’s journey. Without a doubt, director Rachel O’Riordan has expertly brought the show together compactly and effectively.

Of course, there’s a serious point to Effie’s story, with no attempt made to dress its blatant politics in ancient Greek myth; people like Effie feel that – willingly or not – they’re sacrificing themselves on the alter of austerity for the benefit of the rest of society. But, as life continues to bite what, she asks, will happen when the likes of her can’t take any more? 

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

“What gets me through is knowing I took this pain, and said all of you from suffering the same.”

UK Theatre Award for Best New Play 2015, Iphigenia in Splott, heads to London at the National Theatre’s Temporary Theatre, before touring across the UK.

Stumbling down Clifton Street at 11:30am drunk, Effie is the kind of girl you’d avoid eye contact with, silently passing judgement. We think we know her, but we don’t know the half of it. Effie’s life spirals through a mess of drink, drugs and drama every night, and a hangover worse than death the next day - till one night gives her the chance to be something more. Effie will break your heart.

Inspired by the enduring Greek myth, Iphigenia in Splott drives home the high price people pay for society’s shortcomings.