Review: Iphigenia in Splott

Toby Stinson 29 January 2020
Image credit: Anastasia Joyce

Iphigenia in Splott is an arresting one-woman show, which explores the complexities of life for working-class Welsh girl, Effie (Meg Coslett) a loud and strong-minded character whose brash exterior hides a sensitivity and acute awareness of the difficulties of modern life, not just for herself, but for all the broken characters around her.

Maybe it’s because I stumbled in just as Meg Coslett was about to launch into her opening salvo, but from the first fourth-wall-smashing address, I was hooked. ‘You’re in my debt’ we were told, and I certainly was. The narrative of this show follows Effie’s life as she begins to rethink her lifestyle choice of hangovers seven days a week, her outlook having been transformed by one night out and a soldier.

Image credit: David Swarbrick

Coslett delivers the performance with intensity, range and comic wit, tackling issues of austerity, community, loneliness, heartbreak and much else besides. She handles the difficulties of a solo performance with surprising ease, dragging the audience along with her at breakneck speed, or slowing to an indulgent crawling pace as she chooses, to keep the audience locked into the emotional complexities of the narrative.

The variety in her performance prevents what is effectively an extended monologue from growing dull, as Coslett is able to transform her voice, pace and emotion with the rises and falls of Effie’s twisting story. One moment she is brash, bold, wild and loud, the next she’s quiet, insecure and vulnerable, only to break the intense concentration of the audience the next second with a pointed comment through the fourth wall and deep into the eyes of a startled member of the front row.

Iphigenia in Splott’s set is sparse, consisting of a single block that serves as whatever prop is needed. With such sparse scenery, lighting and sound play a key role and they are used thoughtfully to make the scenes more varied. The lighting changes with the daylight, spotlights and coloured lighting reflect Effie’s feelings, and the sound, although it could be utilised more, is used to good comic effect at times.

Image credit: David Swarbrick

In every aspect of the production, Coslett was in complete command, the lights flicking on with a click of her fingers, while her quick glances at the audience and intimate performance kept them in her thrall all evening. Although the production is an adaptation of a Greek myth, it offers a striking message about the failures of modern life, chiming perfectly with today’s political reality.

Even if the narrative trend had become understood and, perhaps, somewhat predictable by the end, the final rallying cry delivered to the audience, with the solitary block transformed into political soapbox, still hit home to leave the audience momentarily in stupefied awe.

Iphigenia in Splott is a hard-hitting production that makes you question the future of our divided society. It drags you through relationships and loneliness, anguish and elation, exposing the world we live in to scrutiny of just how long compromises can be accepted before something must change.

4.5 stars