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Iphigenia in Splott

Sophie Melville in Iphigenia in Splott. Photo: Mark Douet Sophie Melville in Iphigenia in Splott. Photo: Mark Douet

Effie is the kind of person you would probably do your best to avoid if you saw her in the street. She is a razor-tongued, volatile, vodka-for-breakfast young woman living in a district of Cardiff which is slowly being eroded by the cuts, shops boarded up, facilities closing, hospital stretched to breaking point. A one-night stand with a wounded ex-soldier changes her life, gives her something to hope for, but hope is in short supply in Gary Owen’s hollowing monologue.

Rachel O’Riordan’s production does not put a foot wrong. With strip lights flickering in the background, it paints a bleak picture of life in austerity Britain, rain-streaked, emptied. Sophie Melville’s performance is really quite extraordinary, her command of the material complete, both in the way she negotiates the space and the way she addresses the audience; she is alternately hostile, and vulnerable, seductive, heart-breaking.

Watching this is a draining experience, at times desperately upsetting. But the dominant emotion here is one of anger and it is this that you are left with as Effie turns to her audience in the play’s final few minutes, as she demands to be seen and heard. This is a furious piece of theatre-making; it is an accusation, an assault, a call to action – essential.

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Devastating, essential monologue about life in austerity Britain