Ends Jun 04

Iphigenia in Splott

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intense, Edgy, Thought-provoking
24 reviews
80 reviews

Sherman Theatre presents a contemporary drama inspired by the Greek myth, which drives home the high price people pay for society's shortcomings. Part of 59E59's annual Brits Off Broadway festival.

... Read more

Stumbling down Clifton Street drunk at 11:30am, Effie is the kind of girl you'd avoid eye contact with, silently passing judgement. We think we know her, but we don't know the half of it. Effie's life spirals through a mess of drink, drugs, and drama every night, and a hangover worse than death the next day—till one night gives her the chance to be something more. This one-woman play makes its New York debut following performances at the National Theatre in London.

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Reviews (104)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

The New York Times

"I first met Effie last year...I’d almost forgotten the disturbing, exciting pleasures of her company in this fast and furious production, directed to scorch by O’Riordan...'Splott' is a work with a confrontational social conscience, a state of mind that’s rarely conducive to subtlety. But though its conclusion has a didactic abruptness, Owen’s script otherwise operates on a seductively sensory level, in which we seem to absorb fully the nature of a woman and her world by osmosis." Full Review


"It exceeds our expectations with a surprisingly sensitive story by playwright Gary Owen and a winning performance from Sophie Melville...Effie's behavior becomes less shocking and more sympathetic as the play progresses. By the end, we even come to see her as noble in certain ways, an impressive feat for the kind of character most of us would cross the street to avoid...You may not walk away from 'Iphigenia in Splott' loving the protagonist, but it is hard not to respect her." Full Review


“This superbly crafted one-woman show features excellent staging and an awe-inspiring performance…A deeply affecting view of humanity with all of its promise and pain…Sophie Melville is stunning as Effie. She captures the drama, passion and occasional humor of her challenging role. Effie is a dynamic character, one that is at first seems nasty and contentious, but later evokes sympathy...Melville masters all of these dimensions…A gripping, must-see play for metro area audiences.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"The playwright's attempt at making her into a transformational figure of suffering doesn't really fly...Without an actress of Melville's powers, Effie might be insufferable. There's no worry of that here; Melville, a petite blonde with a massive presence, holds our attention as if through sheer force of will...Even if 'Iphigenia in Splott' is more a collection of vivid passages than a fully realized play, Owen is clearly a gifted writer, and Melville shows definite signs of incipient stardom." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Owen's writing is potent, vivid, profane, and illuminated by verbal and physical variations that allow Melville to range from nasty to angry to aggressive to vulnerable to sweet to pathetic to cocky in a split second. The agile, quicksilver actress brings an emotional arsenal to Effie that fills every nook and cranny not only with fiercely human feeling but with piercing shafts of humor." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"It’s almost impossible to look away. 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...It’s a dangerous and edgy performance that feels completely raw and powerful. And epic in a way." Full Review


"Sophie Melville’s electrifying performance as a disaffected young woman surviving in a depressed Welsh town is the muscle of playwright Gary Owen’s intensely bleak solo play...Melville powerfully enlivens this tough 80 minutes. She is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, and heroically surmounts the challenging material...The writing is poetically descriptive and moderately engrossing...Director Rachel O’Riordan’s dynamic staging injects compelling visual flourishes." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

“The main reason to see it is the electric performance by Sophie Melville as Effie…I was disappointed that the play morphed from a fascinating character study to a screed against social welfare cuts, even though, as a cautionary tale, it is certainly timely on this side of the pond as well. My other reservation is the difficulty I had making out some of the words because of the thick Welsh accent and rapid speech…The title’s comparison of Effie to Iphigenia is a bit of a stretch.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Gary Owen's sizzling monologue of a play...And what a tale it is, encompassing both tough-gal rants and an unexpectedly painful and tender account of raw vulnerability...Thanks to the playwright's perfect ear for the language of his protagonist, Sophie Melville's thrilling performance, and Rachel O'Riordan's direction, our hearts go out to Effie and stay with her through the highs and lows of the entire rest of the 80-minute play." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Because the play is compressed into 80 jam-packed minutes (and this actress is electric), every minute takes on urgency. We have neither time nor space to ask why or whether. Tension is maintained, yet never static...The piece contains neither false word nor move...Sophie Melville is hypnotic...Director Rachel O’Riordan displays Effie’s volatility with as much variation as bite. What gets under the heroine’s skin, gets under ours." Full Review

Front Row Center

“Sophie Melville is young, so it’s hard to say that she will never top this, but I don’t know how she could…She was by turns hysterically funny, horrifying and heartbreaking. I don’t remember breathing or moving from the time she opened her mouth to the time the play was over. Rachel O’Riordan set a driving pace…The writing too, was superb, crisp and crackling, and never going down the obvious paths…A stirring cry for revolution.” Full Review


"A typhoon of a performance by Sophie Melville drives toward—and justifies—a final wrenching twist. Directed with just-shy-of-frantic energy by Rachel O’Riordan, Melville’s Effie is a raw slice of humanity...Effie is that rare and wonderful combination, a being of both grippingly real emotion and stylized characterization—a creature that can exist only in the theater...Go see this fiery production." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“Gary Owen’s ingeniously contemporary adaptation...The language of the play is deliciously raucous and the story flows through your veins like jolts of electricity…Melville’s portrayal of Effie is perfection…A lean production without a single unnecessary stroke…The play also taps into important social issues…Offers one of the most satisfying theatrical experiences around, with top-notch writing and an electrifying solo performer, and does so in a way that almost seems effortless.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Tour de force...Sophie Melville captivates in an eviscerating, powerful performance...Owen’s script turns on a dime and Melville runs this marathon, pacing the space like a panther, owning the audience from moment one. The acting and production are theater at its most forceful and engaging. Intelligent, moving, highly relevant at sparking conversation on the wide-range of issues Effie raises...An incisive, powerful production." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "One of the pleasures of Owen’s play is not just in the way it subtly changes our perception of Effie and gradually builds to an explosive finish, but in its narrative drive. Owen tells a really good story and one involving cliffhangers which are brilliantly handled in O’Riordan’s tightly controlled production...The ending is a little rushed...but this is 75 minutes in which Effie finds a voice to remind us that resilience is a sticking plaster and what is required is revolution." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

for a previous production "I have found myself relishing the sensation of being caught by a dramatic sucker punch. A piece of work seems, predictably and uninterestingly, to be heading in one direction but then swerves into altogether more fascinating territory...So sharply written, keenly performed and astutely directed, but still no more than just another gritty urban monologue...Suddenly the play reveals its purpose." Full Review

Time Out London

for a previous production "While ‘Iphigenia in Splott’ will certainly jerk a few tears, the abiding emotion here is righteous anger...Much of the brilliance of Rachel O’Riordan’s kinetic production is that, for all its ferocity, it introduces its polemic with great subtlety...Recent years have proven oddly infertile for political theatre, but ‘Iphigenia in Splott’ is the sort of clear-eyed rallying cry that deserves to force a change." Full Review

The London Evening Standard

for a previous production "This 70-minute piece, arrives in London garlanded with plaudits. It’s easy to see why. Rachel O’Riordan’s sharply focused production has a pacy directness, and Sophie Melville is sensational as Effie. Her performance is caustic, but also flecked with seductive and vulnerable moments — teasing, touching, profound. She savours the intelligence and political anger of Owen’s writing, which is painfully vivid and sometimes devastatingly funny." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

for a previous production "Gary Owen’s blisteringly good play...The writing is stingingly funny and sharp as jagged glass...Owen picks deftly through the wreckage of Effie’s world, like a compassionate, clear-sighted preserver. Sherman Cymru’s artistic director Rachel O’Riordan captures the play’s many tonal changes in her production, which is fluid and textured. It’s a masterclass on how to keep an audience focused in the right way...It’s a breathtaking, bruisingly good performance." Full Review

London Theatre

for a previous production "Owen has a tight grip on the pathos and is cunningly effective at tugging on your heartstrings at the precise moment...Melville's solo performance is nothing short of extraordinary...She manages to avoid the land mines of parody and pastiche that clutter the text, effectively humanizing the character and drawing you in...The subtlety of the polemic is what makes this one of the most powerful and stirring political plays of recent times...It's a powerful message that's been well earned." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "A tremendous piece of storytelling...This is a one-woman marathon and a phenomenal performance by Sophie Melville, incisively directed by Rachel O’Riordan. And it ends with a call to revolution. My only criticism is that the final state-of-the-nation rounding off sounds more a polemic from Gary Owen than from F-off Effie. From her mouth, it does not quite ring true." Full Review

Culture Whisper

for a previous production "Gary Owen's writing, so intricately intelligent, reels you in then blindsides first with human tragedy, then its political repercussions. You can't help but be devastated as each plot development lurches further from initial expectations. 'Breathtaking' is an overused adage, but during the heartbreaking climax, we didn't actually breathe. Standing ovations are rare, especially on press night, but Sophie Melville had every tear-stained person in the Temporary Theatre on their feet." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "The most shattering, angry call for immediate revolt that you will see on stage this year...Melville’s performance is a perfect whirlwind of aggression, seduction, violence and pity, and Rachel O’Riordan’s superlative production never once lets it drop the pace...By any measure going, this is perfect theatre: intelligent, moving, and horribly, horribly relevant. Most of all, though, in those final moments, it feels like the start of a revolution." Full Review

The Telegraph (UK)

for a previous production "This modern-day anti-heroine makes a sacrifice so unexpected, so touchingly altruistic, that it shakes you violently and then pummels your heart...Sophie Melville is remarkable as Effie...Through Owen’s multi-layered text we see someone aggressive and tender, courageous and frightened, funny and sad. Melville captures the character in all her many shades, knowing exactly when to hold back and when to exert emotional welly...An important play." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Profound, Great writing

See it if You love solo plays that explore the effects of economic cuts in working class.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with plays that take you in a destruction ride

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Riveting, Cliched

See it if you want to see a dazzling performance by an amazing actress.

Don't see it if you don't like one-person shows, don't like profanity, don't like unsympathetic characters, or don't like struggling with a Welsh accent

Also Sophie Melville's performance is amazing, but the material is a bit tr... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Riveting

See it if You enjoy one actor plays. Sophie Melville gives a nuanced, sympathetic, and beautiful performance.

Don't see it if You have trouble understanding Welsh accents.

Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Didn't grab me.

See it if Iphigenia is a lost young adult who is attracted to a man and has unprotected sex with him.

Don't see it if You're expecting a comedy. Well done, but just didn't grab me.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing

See it if great storytelling; intense.

Don't see it if n/a

Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Riveting, Great writing

See it if you love high-energy performances by strong female characters -- I've seen dozens of 1-woman shows, this is in my top 3 all-time.

Don't see it if you cannot understand heavy foreign accents (Welsh can be very difficult), or you dislike heavy profanity, or just plain hate 1-person shows

Also This has NOTHING to do with the original Greek tale, so don't expect t... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Intense, Quirky

See it if You like in your face one woman show that's irreverent and loud yet still keeps you attentive to the story about real people and decisions

Don't see it if You don't like profanity, one woman shows, sparse sets or British accents. You don't want to find the heart

Great acting, Raunchy, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing

See it if fiery & finely wrought, with elegant writing and a nuanced, force-of-nature performance at the center. Trenchant politics, explosive finish.

Don't see it if you may have to be British to fully track the arguments about class and status- took me until later in the play to glom on, but it pays off

Great acting

See it if Great performance. Straightforward, rather ordinary story that leaves you thinking.

Don't see it if You'd mind a very in-your-face performance. You don't like examining a pretty grimy, bleak life, although there's an optimistic ending.

Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy classic connections to modern times in a well-written thought-provoking production. Mesmerizing performance.

Don't see it if You don't like solo shows or struggle with a Welsh accent (which is particularly difficult to understand when she is speaking quickly).

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Standout solo performance! great writing!

See it if You would enjoy a play that is told in the first person narrative with a distinct cultural perspective.

Don't see it if You have trouble understanding British accents. The monologue is fast paced so you need to pay attention.

Also the actor does a terrific job of conveying the character's socio-econo... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you want to experience an amazing one person performance.

Don't see it if you're put off by difficult to understand accents, fast speech and deeply negative personalities.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Powerful, Tough

See it if an intense performance of an individual's recognition and trying to overcome their own obstructions interests you

Don't see it if a tough, harsh, aggressive dialogue makes you uncomfortable

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Profound, Riveting

See it if You like one-woman shows and enjoy great acting. You want to know the outcome of class differentiation.

Don't see it if You want light entertainments. You have difficulty following strong British accents. The story is very disturbing.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Relevant

See it if you enjoy great acting and an absorbing story. A timely critique of how our society looks down upon the less fortunate.

Don't see it if you don't like one person shows.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You enjoy strong one-woman shows that rely on the strength of the actress and not over the top production value.

Don't see it if You have trouble with accents or don't want to real life to intrude on your theater. Heart wrenching and powerful, this is not for the weak.


See it if play about all the things that make life messy:drugs, alcohol,deception, neglect.Effie has been neglected by men, and by society ..stirring!

Don't see it if you don't like dark, or heartbreaking stories.

Also Effie, as played by Sophie Melville,is a creature of many contradictio... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Dizzying, Great acting, Intense, Masterful

See it if You enjoy excellent storytelling, intensity, minimalistic set and a one -person play; excellent 75 minutes

Don't see it if You have difficulty understanding accents (it wasn't difficult but some may struggle with slang) or, you want a classic

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Hilarious

See it if If you can get past a thick Welsh accent (I love it) you will see a tour-de-force one woman show that take a place beside PONDLING & CUDDLES

Don't see it if Thick Welsh accent, some profanity upsets you

Funny, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great staging

See it if you like one person shows, good writing, great acting. Intimate show.

Don't see it if you don't like one person shows that deal with some dark subject matter.

Edgy, Great acting, Masterful, Relevant, Riveting

See it if Amazing solo performance. I was drawn into the character's intense experiences. How much of her suffering was fate vs. her own choice?

Don't see it if You are not interested in themes of class disadvantage and alcoholism in a caring but impulsive character.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Masterful, Great writing

See it if You want the joy of finesse delivered via a jackhammer of a performance. This is a beautifully crafted reimagining of Iphigenia's sacrifice

Don't see it if Brit accents are a deterrent. It took 3-4 minutes to find the rhythm of her voice. I could not be a casual listener, nor did I want to be.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense

See it if you want to see a powerhouse of a one woman show that's going to keep you rapt by an excellent performance for all of it's taut 80min run

Don't see it if you don't like one person shows or are looking for someone really light

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Fast-paced

See it if you want to go on a brash, high-speed journey with a spirited girl from Cardiff. Sophie Melville is brilliant in this gutsy, gritty show.

Don't see it if you have difficulty understanding a Welsh accent or are overly sensitive to fluorescent lighting.

Great acting, Indulgent, Slow

See it if you like one person shows

Don't see it if you don't like an almost bare stage with one person talking to you