REVIEW: Iphigenia in Splott | A gritty, one-woman tour-de-force that drives home the high price some people pay for society’s shortcomings

Review | Laura Money

Picture this: mid morning, grubby UK High Street that’s seen better days – fat Mum pushing her fat kids in a buggy, muscle-man walking a tiny dog, and Effie – still drunk from the night before, on the come-down and taking everyone around her down with her. Iphigenia in Splott is the remarkable Gary Owen play mounted for New Ghosts Theatre. Director Lucy Clements takes Owen’s gritty monologue and centres Effie, played to perfection by Meg Clarke, and allows for her voice to be heard, her passions expressed, and her pain revealed as society chews her up and bitterly spits her out.

The stage is minimal – a stark set of concrete platforms, rising like steps, little tufts of weeds pushing through cracks. This surprising detail is brilliantly suited to the medium of film as this is a performance that plays not only to the theatre but to those watching at home. These steps become Effie’s playground, dance hall, intimate space, and her refuge. Clarke gleefully welcomes and challenges the audience on her turf – the steps are hers, just like the alcohol is hers, her body is hers (until it’s heart-breakingly not.) Effie is difficult. She’s confronting. She’s aggressive and defensive. She is a young woman trapped in a viscous cycle of binges, bad sex, and unemotional connections. Clarke absolutely nails Effie’s character and pins it down – she spits and fizzes full of bravado and defiance, she captivates with her strength and vulnerability alike, and expresses fear and numbness with gut-wrenching humanity.

Iphiginia in Splott is a brilliant intersection of theatre and film – allowing for the theatrical drama of a live performance, and the subtle nuances captured on film. Clarke stuns as her larger than life Effie becomes introspective and the light seems to leave her eyes. It’s all in the eyes – Clarke begins hopeful and full of fire but slowly the light dims and she gets glassy and dazed. The link between the eponymous Iphigenia and her mythological counterpart is a tad tenuous – after all the only theme in common is sacrifice – yet Clarke’s zombie-like confusion as she is pulled here and there and no longer has autonomy over her body is actually the perfect symbolism for the myth. No longer the father who makes the sacrifice, it becomes society itself and those who just know better. Poor Effie becomes the symbolic heroine of the lowest rung, the scum she used to be and is now buffeted along into saviour of.

With everything that has occurred over the course of 2020, Iphigenia in Splott is an adroit choice for a nation divided by isolation. As we watch Effie’s exploits and see just how much shit is flung her way, it reminds us all of the arbitrary nature of life. Clements’ skillfully and tenderly directs Clarke in what can only be described as a tour-de-force performance of a one-of-a-kind, difficult but endearing character. This is definitely one to tune in to and we can do so apart but brought together through the arts.

WHEN: 17th – 29th November 2020 | 48 hours from when you download it

WHERE: Online

INFO: Tickets $15 single, $20 household | Ability to donate to artist’s fund up to $100 | Duration 90 mins | This event is held online, a link and password will be emailed. You will have 48 hours to watch the show through the link before it expires | Recommended 15+   


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