Review: Iphigenia in Splott, Lyric Hammersmith

I finally get round to witnessing the scorching brilliance of Sophie Melville in the brutally stunning Iphigenia in Splott at the Lyric Hammersmith

“There is no one to speak for me”

I don’t know quite how I managed to let seeing Iphigenia in Splott pass me by but once Rachel O’Riordan announced that she would be reviving it with original star Sophie Melville at the Lyric Hammersmith this time, I knew I wouldn’t be making the same mistake again. Her performance in Mum last year was one of my absolute favourites of the whole year and her solo turn here has already gone down in history.

She plays Effie, a young woman from the working-class area of Splott in Cardiff who one might chartiably describe as lairy. Loud-mouthed and lascivious, another drunken night out soon takes a turn when she meets a sexy soldier and dares to dream that life might be about to change. It is, but really not in the way she is thinking.

At 75 minutes straight through, Gary Owen’s monodrama is economic but exquisite. It borrows influence from Greek drama as the title demonstrates but doesn’t rely on it – you don’t need to know what happened to Iphigenia, it just adds an extra layer of brutality when the punch finally comes. And this is truly a bruising, brutal piece of theatre, underscored with real menace by Sam Jones’ ominous sound design.

Written as a roar against austerity in 2015, that it feels even more pertinent 7 years later just deepens the tragedy. Melville’s Effie embodies the personal catastrophe that befalls but also emblematises the damage that has been done to society as the real impact of cuts hits deep. Her performance really is nothing short of extraordinary as she takes us on this emotional odyssey and dares us to do nothing in the face of yet another Tory government looming with a scythe.

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Jennifer McCord
Iphigenia in Splott is booking at the Lyric Hammersmith until 22nd October

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