For those who haven’t heard of it, Splott is a working class district of the Welsh city of Cardiff.
Take a stroll along its grey and treeless streets via Google Earth and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the world Gary Owen’s modern-day take on the sacrificed heroine of ancient Greece is shaped by and immersed in.
Effie is a brash, hard-drinking young woman who prides herself on being on a collision course with just about everyone else. Fuelled by half-price drinks, she’ll take anyone on. Three-day hangovers are the norm.
That is until she meets ex-soldier Lee in a nightclub. They hook-up in double quick time. But this isn’t one of Effie’s usual fuck-and-forget encounters. Instead, on a futon in the spare room of a flat belonging to one of Lee’s army mates, something profound happens.
“Suddenly, Effie feels she is not alone. More than that, she feels she will never be alone again.
But this is Austerity Britain and there’s no fairytale ending for Effie. Instead we see her fall into the cracks of a broken public health system reflecting a broken society.
Actor Meg Clarke is Effie in this taut and disciplined Lucy Clements-directed staging produced by Sydney’s New Ghosts Theatre. Put simply, she’s brilliant in the role, by turns hostile, combative, raucously funny and wrenchingly sad.
Save for a couple of seconds-long breaks to swig some water, Clarke blazes away for a non-stop 80 minutes on designer Angela Doherty’s altar-like stage and she doesn’t miss a beat.
Even in a normal year of dozens of independent theatre productions, this would be one of the best one them.
In the ancient Greek play, Iphigenia was Agamemnon’s daughter, sacrificed by her father to Artemis in order to ensure a successful attack on Troy. Owen’s Effie is no princess, yet her fate is in many ways the same – a sacrificial victim of Neoliberalism’s war on community and heedless pursuit of profit above all things – above dignity, above human life.