Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre: Iphigenia in Splott – Theatre Review

Iphigenia in Splott may hold the record for the most difficult show to pronounce to date (Iff-o-gen-iya) It’s based on a Greek myth and while it does tell a story of a very long time ago, there is a lot to be said for society today. The plot is heavy and with Effie being the solo character providing all of the exposition and dialogue for not only her character, but the entire society around her. Only certain actors are cut out for this role. Fortunately for us, Jessica Clarke who is playing Effie in Red Stitch’s production is a revolution. This part was created for Clarke.

The show is directed by Gary Abrahams, who bought us Pomona, 33 Variations and Angels in America. The reworking of The Story of Iphigenia in Greek Mythology moves away from the human sacrifice and then moves it into a look at people in society who get left behind, while others pursue power and wealth. This all culminates together as an analysis on community and how we treat the ‘have nots’ in our world today.

The combination of important dialogue written by Gary Owen combine with the power and pulse of Clarke’s interpretation of Effie that delivers an insight into both her world and the greater world around her. As the story moves through Clarke’s performance, it gets more and more intense. Her character definitely has a sense of humour about her and it is expertly balanced with the darkness of the evolving story.

Effie comes from a Welsh working-class family and is definitely a reincarnation of the ‘alright’ schoolgirl from The Catherine Tate Show. Effie has all the typical tropes, drinks a lot, partakes in recreational drugs and her circle of friends support the habits and accept her behaviour. Effie does have a boyfriend Kav, who she is more interested in sex with than his personality. That is, until one night at the local pub Effie notices Leigh on a night out with his soldier friends and engages in a night of passion that creates a connection that she just can’t shake. Watching this unfold, it was really hard not to yell out every time Effie makes a wrong decision, self-sabotaging any chance she has to get out of her situation. It was at these moments that I realised just how brilliant this show is.

Jessica Clarke is an absolute master of her craft. Carrying a whole show solely on her shoulders Is no easy feat, but also being able to rein in so much of her character and the swirling society around her shows the incredible range Clarke possesses. Even if the subject matter of the show doesn’t interest you, this is a career defining performance from Clarke that far outweighs the subject matter and is worth seeing for her performance alone.

The set is self-contained, as to be expected, with a table, some chairs and small props to move the scenes into different spaces. The lighting was also notable being able to work in and around the contained set to help accentuate the story and set the scenes.

If you are looking for one of the most incredible performances on the local scene, make sure you see Red Stitch Theatre’s Iphigenia in Splott. Jessica Clarke is a revelation and although this show is playing ‘til the 18th of July, hopefully we get some encore performances. This is a spectacular welcome back to the local Melbourne theatre and is not one to be missed.

Iphigenia in Splott is now playing at Red Stitch’s ‘@Home’ Theatre in St Kilda until the 18th of July.
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Photography by Jodie Hutchinson.

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