Review By Lee Sarich
It’s hard to describe the wonder of being back at a live show, but being a writer I should probably give it a go. In short, it’s awesome!
New Ghosts Theatre Company, under the able direction of Lucy Clements has re-emerged with a blistering production of Gary Owen’s Iphigenia In Splott. The Director's note describes seeking a work that is ‘Strategic, powerful and current.’ This is certainly achieved. What she doesn’t go on to mention is that she is seeking a work that is also captivating, exhilarating and emotionally kaleidoscopic, and yet, she achieves all this and more.
Wondering what the theatre looks like today?
The foyer has tables and chairs, couches, drinks and snacks, sign in QR codes and people. Real people. Gathering (appropriately distanced), chatting and laughing. It’s a beautiful thing. Masks are neither mandatory nor frowned upon. Feel free to navigate this new world as you will, seating however is spaced.
Walking in, the set is sparse and unassuming under muted light. A simple stepped platform is transformed into a bedroom, nightclub, neighbours flat, clinic, streetscape, and even a decrepit beach front at the will of Meg Clarke as she gives life to Effie who leads us through this tumultuous journey.
From a disconcerting, twisting eclectic cacophony, emerges the equally complex mishmash of Effie. Immediately demanding attention and respect as she recounts being denounced as a ‘skank and a slag’, what begins as an invitation to judge her, to our peril, ends with an accusation revealing the startling contrasts of the powerful and powerless, sacrifice and indulgence.
With dirty sneakers, a faded grey parka, and tracksuit pants with one leg rolled up and one rolled down, Effie unveils her life before us. Brilliant writing provides a substantial structure, but it’s the energy of Meg Clarke that keeps this monologue from losing passengers as she seamlessly breathes life into all the characters Effie encounters. Be it her recalcitrant boyfriend or her neighbour and drinking mate, the shinning and wounded knight she meets at the nightclub or his Army mates, each character is given a distinct personality of their own.
Through elation and despair Effie keeps us spellbound, unlocking the inner complexities of passion, longing, hope and betrayal. Triumph and tragedy unfold around the harsh backdrop of cold English streets.
Composer and Sound designer Chrysoulla Markoulli accentuates moments tender and warm with depth and support while sharpening the hollow pangs of abandonment, rejection, disillusionment.
In the Greek stories, Iphigenia’s is one of sacrifice. So it is for Effie, and all those she encounters. Well almost all. In the final moments a disparity is painted, a working class scream at the sacrifices shouldered and stoically borne, as a necessary component of a successful capitalist system. Sometimes though that stoicism gives way to a snarling foul tirade - god help you should you give Effie any grief while she’s in the middle of a three day killer hangover. But if you’re lucky she’ll weigh the balance of cost for benefit and maybe once again her sacrifice will equal your abundance.
It’s a pleasure being back at live theatre and a particular joy to experience the resulting alchemy of talented and dedicated collaborating creatives.
After the show, it is back to the cosy and comfortable foyer, with opening night Italian bubbles.
Congratulations cast and crew, all the best for the run.
Sacrifice some time to let yourself be taunted, titillated, tormented and humbled by Iphigenia In Splott.
The Flight Path Theatre is quirky and quaint with plenty of parking in the Addison Road Community Centre Complex. Several varied eating options exist a short walk along Addison Rd. I’m not reviewing restaurants, though if I was I’d have good things to say about the ambiance and food at Pomodorino Pizzeria.
Photo credit: Clare Hawley