Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At the Sherman

Sherman Cymru- Iphigenia in Splott , Sherman Theatre , May 19, 2015
At the Sherman by Sherman Cymru- Iphigenia in Splott Strength and power was one of the hallmarks of Gary Owen’s writing right from the start with his early play Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco. Strength and power and great story telling are here again in his latest work. Director, Rachel O’Riordan, dynamic actor, Sophie Melville and Owen are a trio made in a theatrical heaven, a perfect team to give us this totally captivating account of Effie’s living out her lowlife in Splott, a ‘working class’ area of east Cardiff, but there are many Effies all over the world. It’s no wonder that the demand for tickets to see the show has resulted in an extended run.

This is a one-character play given a great and masterful performance by Melville, very much in contrast with her previous appearance at the Sherman as a very delicate and gentle Juliet. However low the low lives in Owen’s plays manifest themselves, he always manages to make us quite like them.
As the drama becomes more intense Melville’s performance becomes more and more compelling and graphic, you can actually ‘see’ many of the things she describes ! She totally wins the sympathy of us all. As she does with the altruistic twist in the final scene of the play, which I am not sure rings absolutely true but it does bring a strong and real political truth to the ending of the play.

Iphigenia was sacrificed by her father Agamemnon in order to get his ships into Troy. I guess society or maybe David Cameron is the Agamemnon here. Effie is a young drunk “See the only way I get through the week is a cycle of hangovers” apart from the tenners her Nan slips her she is not interested in any help. She has a boy friend, Kev: everyone needs someone. He lets his dog mess all over the pavement. Like the other characters along the way Owen and Melville really do make us get to know the useless Kev. Nevertheless she still determines to play the field

This particular night it’s The Great Western and the turn of Lee, an ex-army guy who turns out to have one leg. It is their one night of passion that determines the downward spiraling of the narrative. Again a journey Melville pictures so clearly that all the protagonists along her tough but miserable way jump out at us and we share her pain. We almost cheer when, at the end of the rocky road there is, almost literally, a pot of gold. Her rejection of it is a bold step for writer Owen to take but he does it with such confident elegance that we contemplate with Effie “What is gonna happen/When we can’t take it any more?’

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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