Set up in order to “reflect the diversity of the real world on stage”, Clumsy Bodies is a queer theatre company formed by disabled artists presenting their take on the ancient Iphigenia myth, transposing the story to an oppressive military stage along the US-Mexico border. The play takes on a dreamlike quality and features dead girls walking, a rave, and even Achilles clad in leather. But although the premise of Clumsy Bodies is admirable, unfortunately in this production they don’t quite manage to pull off what they set out to achieve.
At the heart of this, the play doesn’t quite feel as if it has found its identity. It is a little bit of a halfway house between ancient myth and modern reality: other than loosely borrowing from her (spoiler) ritual sacrifice at the hands of her father, the figure of Iphigenia as our protagonist doesn’t feel necessary. The use of projection, too, feels misguided and awkward, and perhaps detracts from the main body of the play.
Iphigenia, played with genuine energy and commitment by Jess Rahman-González, doesn’t need to be based on the ancient figure. She could be any young girl going through an identity crisis, and the mythical figure masks the secondary plot of the piece: the Femicides of Cuidad Juarez, which feel underexplored and underdeveloped.
Caridad Svich’s script is confusing, whimsical, and feels as if it is attempting poetry for poetry’s sake. This makes it incredibly inaccessible and hard to tap into, with all the characters speaking in ways that alienate the audience due to their incomprehensibility. An attempt has clearly been made to replicate the style of verse used in ancient drama, but in this case it makes it difficult to get on board with the characters, and makes the action a real struggle to follow.
Amongst the minefield of the plot, what does stand out are the wonderful performances by Micky Shaw, Sara Jewell, and Rebeca Rahman-Gonzalez as the effective “chorus” of the piece, providing some light comic relief and helping ground the story a little. Sadly, to contrast this, a couple of the other characterisations feel to caricatured in a way that further distances the audience’s engagement.
Iphigenia crash land falls… is an admirable attempt at updating an ancient myth to explore current issues. But just as Iphigenia goes through an identity crisis, the play she is featured in still feels as if it is finding its feet, making it very difficult to engage with. The company stand for some amazing values, and although Iphigenia could do with a greater deal of self-understanding, it definitely deserves its place at this year’s Fringe.
Iphigenia… played at theSpace on Niddry St. as part of the Edinburgh Fringe until August 13.