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Iphigenia in Splott

Birmingham Rep Door


IN GREEK Mythology, Iphigenia was sacrificed by her father, Agamemnon, who gave her up to the gods to ensure a smooth voyage to Troy.

 In Gary Owen’s work of new writing, the parallels to the themes of sacrifice are apparent, however, his story of Effie tells us about how we as a society live today and gives a voice to those who are easily overlooked.

Owen’s one-woman piece has an extremely clever viewpoint, highlighting the fact that nobody is less important. He gives Effie a straight talking and brash persona and holds a mirror to the shortcomings of establishments and society in the modern world. Owen is a feminist and adheres to the sacrifice of motherhood. Above all, he stands up for those who rarely have their voice heard.

Iphigenia in Splott is a wonderfully insightful and heart-breaking piece. Having won the award in 2015 for Best New Play, it is clear that this play speaks to everyone and Owen is not afraid of telling society where they have gone wrong. He does this with a perfect combination of script, character and setting to feed his viewpoint to highlight those in desperate need of help.

Owen’s setting is the here and now within the district of Splott in Southern Cardiff. He shines a light on Effie, a young woman whose life centres on drink and drugs. With hangovers every day and a ‘do what I want’ attitude, Owen paints a picture of Effie that is uncontrollable. Owen tells the story of why the thoughts of society need to be changed, and fast, through the actions, and attitude of the raucous girl.

Effie is played perfectly by Sophie Melville. She is a complicated and deeply misunderstood character, entrenched with a pre-disposed anger at the world. Throughout the course of the play, this anger is justified and is aimed at particular people and groups as the story unfolds, men from one night stands, unsupportive friends and indeed hospitals.


Melville capture’s Effie’s raw and ungentle essence of character with an ease of truthfulness. Her accent is coarse and the audience are intimidated by her presence from her very first word. Even her look is akin to those that we may pass on the street every day.

The hoody that is so commonly presented to us as the uniform of the worst of society completes Effie’s rough costume of gym leggings and slicked back hair. Indeed, this is exactly the effect that Owen wants to create. Iphigenia in Splott is about those at the very bottom, who are never looked at. Finally they have a platform to tell the incredibly important experiences that happens every day through the character of Effie.

Melville does a wonderful job in presenting Owen’s thoughts and profound message. She is incredibly strong and her confident performance instils a deep-rooted trust between her and the audience. She delivers Owen’s marvellous script with a clear understanding of what it is to live in a drug and drink fuelled world.

This is indeed important, however, Melville’s commitment to Effie’s experiences are what makes her performance so touching and memorable. With the skilled and meticulous direction from Rachel O’Riordan, actor and director work together to deliver Owen’s marvellous script in the most creative of ways. Melville is poetical and presents the rhythmic script the script with great ease. Hayley Grindle’s simple design of set is marvellous to show a rough and unkempt Splott, along with the harsh lights by Rachel Mortimer to highlight Owen’s plot. Each element is a catalyst to drive the story until it comes to its emotional crescendo.

The Greek Iphigenia was Agamemnon’s sacrifice, given up to the god’s for the ‘greater good’. Effie is overlooked by all of us. Although she has not chosen to make the sacrifice of her own life, she has been forced to give up all she has by other powers. Owen tells us that Iphigenia’s story is still relevant today, in the form of Effie. There are more Effie’s than we think and these are the people baring the burden of the choices of higher powers. Iphigenia in Splott asks us the question about what will happen when those when they can no longer take the shortcomings of society, in order to look at our own place in the world. To 19-03-16

Elizabeth Halpin



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