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Off Broadway

Iphigenia In Splott: A Foul Mouthed Greek Heroine

Iphigenia In Splott: A Foul Mouthed Greek Heroine
Sophie Melville

Sophie Melville

Looking at us straight in the eye, in the most unnerving manner, Sophie Melville dares us to look away. Her stance is strong and electric, and her gaze unnerving. She even describes a moment in this electric 80 minute one person show when she stares directly into the eyes of a young man as she stalks toward him through a crowded bar. She’s curious to see if he averts his eyes from hers, because if he does, she says, it is out of some small tremor of fear or discomfort, and she wins. This is exactly what Melville, as her character Effie, is challenging us to do; to not look away. To stay glued to her throughout Iphigenia In Splott, the Brits Off Broadway showcase import, regardless of our own discomfort or distaste for this foul-mouthed young woman traipsing around the small stage of the 59E59 Theatre. And it works, that dare. It’s almost impossible to look away.

Sophie Melville

Sophie Melville

As directed skillfully by Rachel O’Riordan, Melville doesn’t really give us any chance to catch our breath and re-center ourselves from the moment she starts in at us.  With a heavy Welsh accent and an aggressive angry demeanor, Melville leads us through the troubled messed up life of this young woman who has lost all meaning and focus for any forward movement in her life in Splott, a town in Wales. It’s a dangerous and edgy performance that feels completely raw and powerful. And epic in a way.  In the Greek myth of Iphigenia, which this play by Gary Owen is inspired by, the innocent and faithful daughter of Agamemnon must be sacrificed to appease the goddess, Artemis.  Iphigenia is misled by her father, thinking that she is going to married, but in reality, she is being ushered up the alter to be sacrificed.  Knowing she is doomed, Iphigenia decides to die willingly, giving them her life, believing that as a mere mortal, she can’t fight against the will of a goddess. She believes that her death will be heroic, and ultimately, for the good of all Greeks.

Sophie Melville

Sophie Melville

Effie is in no way the innocent or faithful young lady described in Euripides’ Iphigenia at AulisShe is bold and brazen and, in many ways, desperate, waiting for something to happen that will give her life meaning.  She wouldn’t ever admit that, mind you, but her anger at the world and her obsessive and compulsive escapism through alcohol, drugs, and sex can be read in no other way. In a moment of compassion and vulnerability, (or is it blindness and weakness?), she gives her trust over to another, and this is where it all begins. She is deceived in her moment of trust and hopefulness, and lead down a path of destruction and abandonment.  In the same way that the Greek daughter was led up to the altor with faith in her father’s love. To say any more, would do a disservice to the play and to Melville.  But she does, in the end, sacrifice herself, paying a hefty price for the shortcomings of what society is willing to offer her. She is that Greek heroine by the end of this captivating tale, submitting to the will of the people of Wales, and retreating. Ultimately she dares us to see her through the same eyes as we did at the beginning of Iphigenia In Splott, when we might have had the impression that she was the ‘slag’ she first mentioned. Not the heroine she has become.

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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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