Burning Coal Theatre Company’s current production of Iphigenia in Splott, written by Welsh playwright Gary Owen and directed by Burning Coal’s co-founder and artistic director Jerome Davis, is a one-woman show. We meet Effie (Chloe Oliver), a rough-and-tumble Welsh girl from the community of Splott in the southern part of the city of Cardiff, Wales. Effie is brash, bold, and toughened from the hard life that she has lived. She drinks too much. She swears too much. She is up all hours, and is usually hung over. And as she tells the audience, “If you don’t like it — oh, look, I have something for you!” as she flashes us a middle-finger salute.
Effie has enough swagger to fill the room and a sneer to match it. She talks to us, begrudgingly at first, angry that we came to see her. However, as she talks, she starts telling us about a turning point in her life. As she explains, one night at a bar she meets the man whom she thinks she could clean up her life for — a man who is broken, who has seen his own share of hardship and pain, but a man who Effie believes is her future.
Effie believes that they need each other; and as she tries to put her feelings into words, she tells us that she has a feeling that she has never had before … the feeling of not being alone. We so want Effie to have something good happen to her, but life has a way of throwing us curve balls. As we watch the tale pivot and unfold, we can’t help but understand what Effie is going through, the hardships of life and the fragility of hope; and in it, we find that Effie is just like all the rest of us.
Iphigenia in Splott is a simple show, with a simple set. With an orange chair, good blocking, and well-timed flashes of light, we get an intimate portrayal of a girl who is trying to rise above her troubled life, one step at a time. At first, her rough demeanor is off-putting; but the more she speaks, the more we realize that beneath Effie’s tough exterior, she is a lost soul, looking for what we all want — love, acceptance, and companionship.
The play clocks in at a little over an hour, and the time flew by. We were transported to a foreign land and amazed at the universality of the human experience.
From the Department of Picky-Picky: Chloe Oliver’s Welsh accent was at times a little difficult to understand, and we detected a few lapses a time or two, but nothing that detracted from the telling of the tale.
For those who don’t know, in Greek mythology, Iphigenia was the daughter of Agamemnon, who sacrificed her to the Gods to ensure clear sailing of the fleet to Troy. Our own Effie has to decide her what her own sacrifices will be, and these decisions will impact her own life as well as the lives of others. Through the whole show, you will find yourself pulling for her. She is worth getting to know.
SECOND OPINION: May 23rd Hillsborough, NC WHUP/104.7 FM interview with Burning Coal artistic director and Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake) director Jerome Davis, Worried playwright and director Renée A. Nixon, and Iphigenia in Splott director Kayla M. Kaufman, conducted by Wayne Leonard for “Lights Up!”: https://whupfm.org/episode/lights-up-52318-permanent-archive/.
Burning Coal Theatre Company presents IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT at 7:30 p.m. June 14 and 17, 8 p.m. June 22, and 2 p.m. June 23 in the Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
BOX OFFICE: 919-834-4001 or https://www.etix.com/.
BURNING COAL’S 2017-18 “WAIT TIL YOU SEE THIS” SECOND-STAGE SERIES: http://burningcoal.org/secondstage/.
Iphigenia in Splott (2015 Welsh drama): https://www.oberonbooks.com/iphigenia-in-splott.html (Oberon Books).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Gary Owen (Welsh playwright): http://www.gary-owen.co.uk/ (official website), https://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/client/gary-owen (Curtis Brown bio), https://upclosed.com/people/gary-owen/ (Up/Closed bio), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Owen_(playwright) (Wikipedia).
Jerome Davis (Raleigh, NC director and Burning Coal co-founder and artistic director): http://burningcoal.org/jerome-davis/ (Burning Coal bio) and https://www.facebook.com/jerome.davis.5686 (Facebook page).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.