Guest reviewer: Ryan Grimshaw

It can’t be too good dodging the dog-shit streets of Splott. It can’t be too easy dodging Effie, the loud-mouth, aggressive inhabitant who has saved us all. Every single one of us. We owe her. And she’s about to tell us why.

In Gary Owen‘s one-woman monologue Iphigenia in Splott, Sophie Melville as Effie stalks her home town, picking fights and challenging those who look at her the wrong way. She knows what they’re thinking, ‘Stupid slag. Nasty skank.’ But she tells us this with an arrogance, a new pride, because she doesn’t let it own her. She owns it. She drinks it down and swills it around her mouth, getting drunk and vomiting it up, then a hangover which takes her out of the cycle for a few days.

When out on a binge-fest, Effie meets Lee. She sends her boyfriend off to the toilets with promises of a quickie, but she homes in on her new target, moving in ‘like a fucking cruise missile’. Effie and Lee connect, then everything changes.

Melville expertly spits words like some filthy poetry, a brutal machine gun of quite beautiful descriptions, piercing observations, a hard-knock reality with enough humour to make Effie a person we could care about. Gary Owen’s script achieves an incredible feat, slowly penetrating, causing you to suddenly feel something for Effie. She is everything yet she is nothing; a nobody and somehow everybody. She’s a beach she never knew existed, discarded with shopping trolleys, white goods and cracked paving stones, but she is a beach nonetheless.

Rachel O’Riordan‘s direction allows for weight to be thrown around, for quick spurts of movement in the space, and then stillness. Melville’s convincing swagger and rage is exaggerated, but definitely recognisable – though it is her moments of vulnerability that truly pang with emotion.

Effie is a woman living in the social margins. She is a victim of the expanding financial cuts, the fragmented system, though her sort are tough so they can deal with it, she says. But for how much longer?  The controversial ending has sparked a few interesting reactions. It is a political bullet. It’s the condemning final spit in this lyrical assault. The ability to bounce back for Effie and those like her may just not be enough to shake the table. Perhaps a little hasty and rash, and somewhat revelatory for Effie, the 75 minute monologue culminates in an affecting, charged message.

One definitely to sit up and pay attention.