StageScan Pick: Iphigenia in Splott

Gary Owen’s latest for Sherman Cymru has dazzled the London critics.  Iphigenia in Splott at the NT achieved a 4.6-star average from the pros, with most giving it full marks.

Daisy Bowie-Sell (What’s On Stage) hailed a “searing, blind-siding monologue about the welfare state” which “demonstrates the way in which we let those most vulnerable down”. Henry Hitchings (ES) identified “a droll link to the modern high street” in this tale of a contemporary “princess of Argos” which he found “a chastening audit of the grimmer details of 21st-century Britain”.

Bowie-Sell described “a raw, real, gut-punching wake-up call” in which “Owen’s fluid text mixes street slang into an intense poetry”. Lyn Gardner (Guardian) enjoyed “the way it subtly changes our perception of Effie and gradually, almost lazily, builds to an explosive finish” and Hitchings said “we come to see Effie as heroic”.

Gardner praised a “brawling, big-hearted, raging monologue” through which Effie reveals her story with “the fleetness of a Greek messenger delivering exceptionally bad news”. She saw Owen’s plotting “brilliantly handled in Rachel O’Riordan’s tightly controlled production”. Hitchings agreed: “It’s easy to see why” it “arrives… garlanded with plaudits.”

All focused on what Hitchings called Sophie Melville’s “sensational” performance, “caustic, but also flecked with seductive and vulnerable moments — teasing, touching, profound”. Bowie-Sell described a “blunt and provocative” stare and “reckless, fractious, violent energy” in “a performance that crackles” provoking “both disgust and empathy”. Gardner found Melville’s Effie “blistering” as “the words pour out of her mouth – an open wound – like a torrent of vomit” describing “a tiny fireball of sneering booze-filled aggression and self-hatred disguised with a swagger”.

Hitchings saw the actor savour ”the intelligence and political anger of Owen’s writing” which he found “painfully vivid and sometimes devastatingly funny”. Gardner was reminded “that resilience is a sticking plaster, and what is required is revolution”. Bowie-Sell summed up “A superb turn in a devastating play that will shake even the most sure-footed of us” suggesting it “will linger with you, like a strange dream, for days”.

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