City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Iphegnia in Splott, Traverse Theatre, Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 04 March 2016

Show Details
Traverse Theatre
Sherman Cymru
Gary Owen (writer), Rachel O' Riordan (director), Hayely Grindle ((designer), Rachel Mortimer (lighting designer), Sam Jones (sound designer)
Sophie Melville (Eph)

Rheged, Gwynedd, Dinas Powys and Strata Florida – the names seem more potent that anything mentioned in the writings of George R. R. Martin, and mellifluous enough for even ardent atheists to consider that they might come from a language spoken in Eden.

Splott, on the other hand, is an easy walk from the Sherman, Cardiff, though perhaps not one many of its regular theatregoers frequently take. Gary Owen does though, and takes us on a journey, to use that over-worked phrase, that proves to be a roller coaster ride that echoes, albeit by inference, the myth of Iphigenia, sacrificed by Agamemnon to ensure a fair wind for the Greeks expedition to besiege Troy. The reference appears oblique until the final minute of the play, for Sophie Melville’s Eph is a binge-drinking, hangover-courting hedonist whose ‘chaotic’ lifestyle suggests that her idea of sacrifice might be a weekend off the booze.

Appearances can be deceptive, however, and it is credit to Owen’s capacity for characterisation that for all Eph’s bullet-train speed dialogue delivered with the machine gun rapidity of those who sense their every word will be ignored, her character emerges with a deeply feminine sensibility all the more credible for the bruises it frequently suffers.

Despite what felt like a somewhat slow start and clearly hear-felt if close to polemical end, Owen’s script remained drum-tight in Melville’s hands throughout, even when its themes threatened, as they did toward its end, to overwhelm its narrative.

Eph’s reactions to the consequences of a one-night stand with a maimed soldier, her mood shifts and final sense of defeated alienation are all beautifully reflected in Melville’s interpretation, and it this which ensures ‘Iphigenia in Splott’’s four star rating.

However, all due credit has to go to Rachel O’Riordan’s fine and sensitive production, ably augmented by Hayley Grindle’s design, the lighting design work of Rachel Mortimer and effective but unobtrusive soundscape of Sam Jones.

‘Iphegenia in Splott’ sounds a clarion call for a return of human values and human decency, and is none the worse for doing so.