Sophie Melville is transfixing as Effie in Iphigenia in Splott. Splott, in case you don’t know, is a depressed suburb of Cardiff, the city in Wales. Iphigenia, Effie as she is called by everyone, is an unemployed, unhappy, listless young adult with few prospects going forward. She is also hard, crass, bitter and nasty to everyone from her boyfriend to strangers on the street. On the positive side, she enjoys being a bitch.
Sophie Melville in Iphigenia In Splott. Photo by Mark Douet.jpg
Her rage is transfixing and often humorous, albeit exhausting, as she berates anything or anyone that wanders into her zone of attention. Effie’s weekly routine consists of drinking, screwing and dealing with a hang over until she is ready to do it all again.
Iphigenia in Splott takes this character and listens as Effie tells the story of when her life changed, when she realized there was more possible. It is a format of a play that is often used in single character shows, particularly British or Irish pieces. Her story revolves around a man she met at a bar that might or might be her soulmate and what happens to her after that meeting. It isn’t a harrowing tale, but it is a heartbreaking story. There is a bit of social rage tacked on at the end that tries to make the audience think twice about the plight of people like Effie in towns like Splott.
The play is effective and the audience connects with Ms. Melville. She gives a great performance, but it is a performance limited by the format. The audience listens to Effie rage and pout and swagger about for 80 minutes. It is a long time to spend with a, mainly, unpleasant and inconsiderate bitch, even if you feel for her. A strong Welsh accent doesn’t help matters, and makes it tough to keep up, particularly when her volume launches into a screech.
Directed by Rachel O’Riordan, Iphigenia in Splott forces you to care for Effie, ultimately excusing her actions and attitude because of luck and forces well beyond her ability to control. In this, Iphiginia comes from a very European mind-set where your opportunities are predetermined, children pay for the crimes of their parents and you have very little control over your fate. If you believe that, then rage might be the only reasonable response.
Iphigenia in Splott | Playwright: Gary Owen | Director: Rachel O’Riordan | Cast: Sophie Melville | website