Friday, 4 March 2016

Iphigenia in Splott

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

When Gary Owen's explosive state of the nations address that reimagined Greek tragedy in twenty-first century Cardiff was first seen in Edinburgh during the final week of the 2015 Festival Fringe, its hoodie-wearing protagonist evoked the spirit of broken Britain with a sound and fury that left others standing. Here Iphigenia was reborn as Effie, a binge-drinking, one-night standing emotional and physical fireball in a woman's body, who had nothing to lose except her benefits because everything's been closed down.
 
Six months on, and Rachel O'Riordan's production for the Cardiff-based Sherman Cymru company looks even more vital as it goes out on a tour which needs to be seen as far and widely as possible. While Owen's monologue, delivered with machine-gun ferocity by a fearlessly wonderful Sophie Melville, is in part a call to arms, that it achieves this with a wit and a rich poetic life-force makes it even more special.

Alone in the spotlight, Effie recounts her personal odyssey that sees her move from back-street boozer to an ill-fated dalliance with an injured squaddie who's been thrown onto the scrap-heap just as much as she has. What sounds initially like motor-mouthed gossip to impress her mates becomes a damning litany on the painfully real consequences of the dismantling of the NHS and the welfare state.

Every single politician and civil servant responsible for such a move should be frog-marched to see this show wherever it plays. Maybe when Effie stares them in the eye, accusing them from the depths of her being, they might yet develop a conscience in the face of the most important play of the moment.

The Herald, March 7th 2016

ends

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