One of the hardest things to do as a reviewer is going into a show when it has so much praise already. You only have to google Iphigenia In Splott to be in a sea of five star reviews. But does it live up to the hype?
In case you are not too clued up on your Greek mythology, Iphigenia was sacrificed for the sake of her nation’s war efforts. But our Iphigenia is a strappy little blonde named Effie hailing from Splott, Cardiff. She opens the show talking about herself, mentioning how we would avoid her in the street. With her scraped back hair, grey tracksuit and pink Nike trainers, we probably would. But as she tells her story, you find yourself being drawn in, never wanting to avoid her gaze.
Gary Owen’s Iphigenia In Splott runs almost like poetry. Although we never know where his text is going to take us, the audience knows it is going to reach a dramatic conclusion. Effie becomes an unreluctant causality of modern Britain, and Owen’s text chronicles that in the most heartbreaking way. Just reading the play text alone shows just how much this show was going to pack a punch.
But when you have a one-person show in a small theatre like the Temporary at the National, the relationship of material to performance is key, and they could not have picked a better person to front this show than Sophie Melville. From beginning to end Melville gives a crash course on how to keep the audience’s attention, especially as the minimalistic set and lighting design does not distract at all. Melville takes the audience on a rollercoaster of emotion from throughout the play. She darts back and forth between the audience still with a glimmer of hope in her eyes, chatting about her stories in Chicken Cottage and seducing hot guys in clubs. But she slowly loses that hope as she describes her experiences of heart break after heart break.
None of this would fit together without Rachel O’Riordan’s tremendous direction. The way she has managed to capture the drama and heart-breaking stories Effie recounts, is something that most would miss the mark on. Is there seriously anything that O’Riordan gets her hands on that will not turn into theatre gold?
Did the show live up to the hype of its Sherman Theatre and Edinburgh Festival run? Yes it did, and more. The show packs an almighty punch within its hour and fifteen minutes, and you will leave shocked, emotional and incredibly intrigued. The hype for this show is highly deserved and just shows how you can get a five star performance when every element fits like a perfect puzzle.
Iphigenia In Splott is playing at National Theatre’s Temporary Theatre until 20 February. For more information and tickets, see www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/iphigenia-in-splott