Iphigenia in Splott
If A Girl is a Half-formed Thing was kind of Greek Chorus, we’re bang up to date with a rap here, for all the eponymous title. Trouble is, only about half the dialogue is discernible. Annoyingly, you tend to miss a lot of the jokes, and there are a lot of jokes. It is also delivered so flamboyantly and often in such an exaggerated fashion, you also find yourself focussing on the curious pronunication (‘dare’ for ‘door’ etc).
Sophie Melville certainly has her work cut out to make this larger than life, self-described slag and skank in any way sympathetic. Almost miraculously, she succeeds. A hard as nails bully, apparently without any insecurities at all, she charges through life via sex and drugs and rock n’ roll, and drink of course. And barely a hint of back story so no explanation, and no excuses. Except it cannot be denied that in many parts of the country, ask somebody who lives there Why? and all the answer you will get is shrugged shoulders and the simple statement: What else is there to do? So, a single mention of her father and nothing about her mother although her affection and admiration for the grandmother who raised her is laid bare.
It seems like very unpromising material, a good match for the old as the (Greek) hills story: boy meets girl, boy doesn’t bother to respond to texts, girl takes absolutely forever to realise she’s been dumped, then finds herself in a whole lot of trouble. What is clever about all this, is the way it is turned into such a gripping play – you are slowly drawn in to find yourself, somewhat surprised, with Effie al the way.
That way lies on another stark stage, no props other than chairs and a doorway of broken fluorescent lights, with strip lights marking the perimeter, uneasy sound marking the ups and downs (mostly downs) of Effie’s journey. Unfortunately, once we do get to the end, it is something of an anticlimax: that was the story, now listen very carefully, and this is the moral, which assumes that the audience cannot draw its own conclusions. But if the title intrigues you (can there be an uglier place name than Splott – where on earth did that come from?), and upon racking your brains, you vaguely recall that Iphigenia was sacrificed to seek a favour from the gods, and want to know about Effie’s sacrifice and why – and why this has received so much acclaim, the play is a must see.