Monday, 3 October 2022

REVIEW: Iphigenia in Splott at the Lyric Hammersmith

If you have followed Iphigenia in Splott from Wales to the rest of the UK, Berlin and New York, you won’t be surprised that this review will sing its praises. Over the last seven years, none of its biting commentaries has been lost as it embarks on its final outing at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Sophie Melville as ‘Effie’ makes large of the little moments that create a life. In a totally commanding one-woman performance, she takes the audience on a tour of their own preconceptions of the loud and provocative central character. Instantly, without warning, you are whisked away to the world as Effie chooses to see it, regardless of whether you hate it, love it, or are scared of it. The point is to try and understand it, as it is slowly compressed by an invisible austerity pressing down from above. Melville’s immense, boisterous physicality is dampened until, finally, she is still, with her every word bearing the tragedies that has made her so.

Hayley Grindle’s set and Rachel Mortimer’s lighting are boldly creative in their simplicity and frame Melville’s kinetic performance magnificently. They allow the audience to teeter on the edge of the real and the subconscious that Gary Owen’s script dances between. Ultimately they come together to create a space much larger than the 600-seat theatre the monologue is confined to. The weight of Effie’s sacrifice, and the deliberate policies that led to it, come crashing down and sit on your shoulders for a long time to come.

The strange thing about this show is that it doesn’t feel particularly new, despite still feeling relevant. Owen’s script seems to ebb and flow from striking and caustic to pretentious and overstated. Rachel O’Riordan’s direction, though clear and bold for the most part, occasionally plays into these eye-roll moments, in which the action would linger on a word that had already been auto-filled in the listener’s mind. In spite of this, by the end of the 75 minutes, there is little that can be criticised about the overall experience (and it is certainly an experience). Effie has answers to all of your misgivings and you would expect nothing less from her.

Iphigenia in Splott plays at the Lyric Hammersmith until 22 October. You can go to see an incredible piece of theatre but you will leave with a commitment to change.

Review by Anna Smith

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls K9 | Price of Ticket: £32
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