The morning after the General Election, the week Mr J’s mum passed- May 2015.
I had a ticket for the opening night of Iphigenia In Splott. I wasn’t sure whether to go but getting out of the house that evening seemed like a good idea.
As everyone else left the space, I stayed behind, regaining my composure. This is a production with the power to break you and then give you a reason to put yourself back together.
Everything about the production just was.
And I can honestly say it’s shaped a lot the decisions I’ve made since. Maybe I haven’t changed as radically as I wanted. Small steps.
Iphigenia received fantastic reviews (not least my own of course), and some months later I was at Taith and the conversation moved on to the transferability of the production. I remember commenting (with my heart in my throat) that I thought the piece should be regionalised if it was take to the road, because it makes it more immediate.
I thought about entitling this post ‘Why Rachel O’Riordan is always right’ or ‘Never argue with an Artistic Director about what they know better than you’.
In the Summer of 2015 Iphigenia went up to Edinburgh to a fantastic reception. Remaining as Iphigenia in Splott and packing the same punch.
A tour was announced, and I managed to book a ticket at the National Theatre early enough.
Seeing Iphigenia again left me in the same mess. Even knowing the story, knowing where it would break me.
I had naively thought pride in Cardiff taking on London would get in the way of my emotion.
Because here’s the thing. I am filled with immense pride seeing ShermanCymru take a production to the National Theatre. The first Welsh production to transfer to the National.
And because I’m Welsh it’s something I automatically feel the need to tell everyone.
I think we, in Welsh voice, should be singing it from the rooftops.
The production on a London stage, eight months on, was sharper, the Cardiffian accent seemed more cutting, punchier, more confrontational than I remembered.
This maybe because it’s a softer Effie which remained with me.
But this Effie, well Sophie Melville was stunning, getting the backs up the audience, you could see the disdain. Effie was going into battle. And this is the joy of Gary Owen’s writing. Effie draws you in, first with her humour, and then with emotion- physically drawing you in as she changes from this ‘skank’ to a realisation that the same emotions, beautifully articulated, are everything you know.
Last time I broke first during Effie’s encounter with Lee, this time the two gentleman sitting either side of me did.
But this time, knowing, I allowed myself to live Effie’s emotion, the raw emotion, this time the power of feeling ‘not alone’ caught me, full of optimism for what could be, for what Effie didn’t know but the imagery of words allowed me to feel the joy which would shortly envelop her.
This time, surprisingly to me, it was Kev who broke me, his joy destroyed.
This time, I was no less broken by what was to come.
I know, as a mother I break easier, but I know I wasn’t alone.
The time Effie’s call to action felt more direct.
This time, eight months on, I have less confidence that things are being fixed, things really aren’t improving by those elected to look after our nation.
This time I have more confidence in the strength of the human spirit, the ability to create change at grassroots.
I’m now on the train back to South Wales. Catching up on how the Vale of Glamorgan Council has found a loophole in the Libraries Act. Failing to embrace the passion of the grassroots campaigners who took their fight to keep local libraries publicly run to the Courts.
We failed to protect the cuts in the areas which can’t take it, the cuts are going wider and deeper. Prodding and picking anywhere they can, and most commonly at the areas we value yet under appreciate, until it’s too late.
Iphigenia in Splott deserves this local audience on a national scale. Rachel O’Riordan’s precision and passion for this piece should be celebrated, in Cardiff, in Wales, by those who believe a stage gives opportunity.
Iphigenia is a mirror and burying our heads in our lives makes us no better than the Effie we met in those first minutes.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I think you should see ‘Iphigenia in Splott’. I’d actually recommend you see it twice.