Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Iphigenia in Splott


Every Spring, 59E59 Theaters bring us a series of imports from the UK under the rubric Brits off Broadway. This one-person play by Gary Owen originated in Cardiff and then had an acclaimed run in London. The main reason to see it is the electric performance by Sophie Melville as Effie, an angry young woman from Splott, a working-class neighborhood of Cardiff. Effie, whose means of support is unclear, alternates between binges and hangovers and describes herself as the kind of person you cross the street to avoid. I wish we learned more about what led to her self-defeating lifestyle. Effie stops spewing invective long enough to tell us the story of a recent affair with a wounded veteran that made her let down her guard long enough to hope for a better life. Of course it turned out badly. Effie pays a terrible price but acts nobly when she has an opportunity to seek redress. I was disappointed that the play morphed from a fascinating character study to a screed against social welfare cuts, even though, as a cautionary tale, it is certainly timely on this side of the pond as well. My other reservation is the difficulty I had making out some of the words because of the thick Welsh accent and rapid speech. Designer Hayley Grindle and lighting designer Rachel Mortimer have come up with a striking set that features a series of fluorescent lights that resemble a venetian blind aptly falling into disarray. Rachel O’Riordan’s direction is straightforward. The title’s comparison of Effie to Iphigenia is a bit of a stretch. Running time: 80 minutes; no intermission.

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