The Sherman Cymru has created a wonderful piece of pertinent theatre that smacks us right in the gut. Gary Owen has riffed superbly on the Iphigenia myth and told a contemporary story that covers the treatment of children by their parents and the systematic abuse of the state . The parallels made with the original stories are superb and incredibly topical.
In the Euripides 'Iphigenia in Aulis' our heroine (Effie) is "sacrificed" by her father, King Agamemnon, to appease the goddess Artemis and give the Greeks safe passage to Troy. In Splott we are given an exploration of how adults treat young children, both from the paternal perspective of a Father who has been having an affair (and the hurt that may be cause to his young girl if the affair were to be outed) and Iphigenia herself going through a pregnancy and the harm that she may or may not cause to her own child, both intentionally and due to the lack of care on behalf of the State. This is when a big fist rises and punches you square in the face.
It is our state. Our Government that has cut down services which have caused irreparable damage to Iphigenia and her child, and this is happening now. Today. Especially in Wales where there are arguments of poor ambulance services and a lack of care units in local communities, some of which are well over an hour away. It is NOT a myth. Agamemnon (the state) destroys Iphigenia (Effie). It happened in antiquity and myth in a violent, brutal way and it is happening now in just as brutal a manner, but in a less obvious way.
Sophie Melville as Effie is bursting with energy and on fire with her vitriol, power and charm. She challenges us from the outset, she knows about the judgements we, the audience, have already made about her purely from the way she sits and talks and even how she looks.
"You think I'm a skank, don't you" and eventually this journey takes us to a place where Effie decides not to chase a law-suit against her local NHS (due to awful malpractice and under-funding) which would cost the hospital hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is her sacrifice (not getting justice for her lost child) that doesn't cripple a local hospital already under immense pressure. She asks us to think again when we look at someone like her. Like Iphigenia in the original play who sacrifices her life for the "good" of the people, Effie sacrifices just as much for a, more or less, similar purpose. In the Illiad and in the Euripides play and even in this version we ask. What is all her suffering actually for? Is there such thing as a "greater good" that can be gained from it? ie safe Greek passage/Economic stability - both a myth. It is a simmering and powerful play with a first class performance. Go see!
Sophie Melville as Effie - NT
Featured image “Les liaisons dangereuses (theater poster – 2008)” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Les_liaisons_dangereuses_(theater_poster_-_2008).jpg#/media/File:Les_liaisons_dangereuses_(theater_poster_-_2008).jpg