Writer: Gary Owen
Director: Rachel O’Riordan
Reviewer: Chris Oldham
Apparently Effie has saved us all – every single one of us. We owe her. And she’s about to tell us why.
Taking its title from the character in Greek mythology, and the area of Cardiff in which it’s set,Gary Owen’s onewoman monologue Iphigenia in Splott follows Effie (Sophie Melville) as she stalks the only streets she’s ever known, picking on anyone who dares to challenge her or even look at her the wrong way.
She thinks she knows how people see her, why they cross the street to avoid her. But rather than let it bother her she owns it, wears it as a badge. Or, at least, that’s what she tells us. Jobless and devoid of direction in life, she spends her time getting as drunk as possibleand then basking in the wasteland of her three-day long hangovers. One night, while out in a club with her flatmate and her boyfriend she locks eyes with another man across the room. And then everything changes.
Owen’s script is like poetry, full of biting observations, effortless realism, and enough humour to allow us to take Effie into our hearts, despite her best efforts not to let that happen. At times, the whole thing is like a song, unfurling piece by piece as the full picture begins to form, a picture of deprivation and decay, of class divides, of a woman the world is desperately trying to ignore. Effie never realised there was a beach a mile from her house. It’s littered with shopping trolleys and discarded household appliances, but it’s a beach none the less. Through her tight direction, Rachel O’Riordan allows moments like this to pass by almost unnoticed, and in doing so affords them the most weight.
Melville is extraordinary, transcending the text to breathe such life into the character – this raging, lonely force to be reckoned with. As she struts around the stage – nothing but a striking sculpture of strip lights and a few chairs – the space rumbles with low, ominous, sound effects, rolling like thunderin the distance that might just be heading our way.
One of the most heartbreaking things about the production is not Effie’s fate but, that she is just one of many. One of a marginalised society forced to take the brunt of evergrowing financial cuts in an already fractured system. One of thousands screaming to be heard.
Runs until 2 April 2016 | Image:Mark Douet