This response started as a real text convo between me in NYC and Joel (JF) in our home in Adamsdown, Cardiff. It inspired me to continue in this format. Instead of commenting that the language in the play was strong, and potentially offensive to some audiences, the response enters into the spirit of the drama and uses its vernacular. The other person in this scripted response is my daughter Tillie as TJ, who attended the performance with me. – LJ.
LJ: I saw Iphigenia in Splott in NYC on Wednesday night.
JF: What was it about?
LJ: A drunken slag on Clifton St….
JF: Anyone I know?
LJ: Her world; her straight-talking shit-faced attitude.
JF: Was it set in the Clifton pharmacy getting her methadone fix?
LJ: I said a drunk not a druggie.
LJ: Her hopes, fears, delusions… how the world impacts on her and she impacts on the world…
JF: What’s her name?
LJ: Iphigenia. Effie for short.
JF: How did it go down?
LJ: New York is a pretty gritty city, you know…
JF: You would know, born and bred there.
LJ: Yes I would. So, I think they got it. Apart from a smattering of laughs in the right places (but not all the right places), Sophie Melville’s Effie silenced the house throughout with her intimidating, in-your-face performance of this real toughie from Splott, Cardiff. New Yorkers understandably missed a few laughs for which you’d really have to be there to fully appreciate. As well, some of the micro-cultural and geo-specific references may have gotten lost in translation, but overall the impact was powerful.
JF: And you knows your Caadiff, too, innit love?
LJ: Living in the ‘Diff for 35 years and off Clifton Street for ten of them ? I’ve got the T-shirt, love,… with the distinct privilege of calling The Clifton my local…
JF: We’ve seen a bit down the Clifton…
LJ: I’ve definitely avoided the likes of Effie down Clifton Street, the wounded urban warrior, bruised and battered but still standing; spitting and swearing, daring you and scaring you just by staring at you…..
LJ: Melville’s impressive performance as Effie clearly kept the audience gripped — holding on tight while she soared (Bar scene) and sank (Birthing scene) and dragged us ducking and diving through the gutter of her frenzied and high-risk out of control life.
JF: Woa! Who wrote the play?
LJ: Gary Owen.
JF: Fair play. Sounds like she did justice to the part.
LJ: She did, though she may have missed some of the nuances of the authentic Splott voice and persona that are thoroughly embedded in Owen’s script, falling just short of the highest highs and the lowest lows possible with such a tragic figure.
JF: Who directed it?
LJ: Sherman Theatre’s, Artistic Director, Rachel O’Riordan. And quite strategically. The simple set (Hayley Grindle) served this small stage. A few chairs scattered randomly, and a light fixture of fluorescent strip lights, some falling off (Lighting Designer, Rachel Mortimer) reflected a cheap and nasty flat above a shop on Clifton Street.
JF: Grunge chic…
LJ: Charting Effie’s movements across the stage was great sport — if you’re into sports and sporting analogies.
JF: Sure, I could be…
LJ: O’Riorden’s tactical staging cleverly anticipated the high points of the story by directing Effie to, say, shift a chair a number of beats beforehand, then having her double back to start a scene in order to arrive at that chair at just the right point, to score!
LJ: And with a pivot or a dart or a scramble across around and through the Cardiff landscape, satisfying-for-natives references to Cardiff landmarks throughout the script, O’Riordan’s use of this minimalistic set, with zero props, demanded that Melville command the space and permitted the beautifully steely script to tell the story.
JF:Sounds like you enjoyed it.
LJ: TJ cried. It was rather sad, but I didn’t cry.
JF:Why didn’t you?
LJ: I suppose it was all a bit too real. Its was so close to real life, it hurt more physically than emotionally. I ached for a while afterwards.
JF: Come back, Cardiff misses you.
LJ: I’ll be back in August.
Iphigenia in Splott played at 59E59, NYC as part of their Brits Off Broadway season, from 9 May to 4 June.