Iphigenia in Splott at the National Theatre review: A pitch perfect performance from Sophie Melville

Melissa York
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Sophie Melville in Iphigenia in Splott

Temporary Theatre, National Theatre | ★★★★★

In Ancient Greece, Iphigenia was sacrificed by her father, King Agamemnon, to conjure up a wind so his ships could sail to Troy. Despite the passing of millennia, she’s still a lamb to the slaughter in this new play set on the streets of modern day Splott in Cardiff.

Hooded and stumbling drunk down the street at 11.30am, she knows what we all think of her. “Stupid slag, naaaaasty skank”. Then an-hour-long monologue tumbles out; a woman famous in death finally given voice to speak about her life.

It’s utterly compelling, constantly toying with the audience’s assumptions, changing direction as often as Effie – as she’s nicknamed here – changes sexual partners.

One minute she’s the epitome of the good time girl, out to get trashed and make cash, the next she’s falling for a wounded soldier she meets in a club, and suddenly it’s a love story. Then a tragedy, then a redemption tale, then a gut-punching political call-to-arms.

Playwright Gary Owen may have won Best New Play at 2015’s UK Theatre Awards, but nothing quite prepares you for meeting Sophie Melville’s Effie in the flesh. Her pacing is perfect, always one step ahead of your expectations. She’s funny, too, bringing a loveable swagger to the most demeaning of circumstances.

It’s a performance that’ll stay with you long after you leave Effie in Splott.

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