Gary Owen's Iphigenia in Splott to return at Lyric Hammersmith with Sophie Melville

Iphigenia in Splott Key Art
Iphigenia in Splott Key Art (c) Jennifer McCord

Gary Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott is to return with a run at Lyric Hammersmith Theatre this autumn.

Originally commissioned and produced by Sherman Theatre and later performed at the National Theatre, the piece will reunite the Lyric’s Artistic Director Rachel O’Riordan with Sophie Melville, reprising her role as Effie.


The monodrama inspired by the Greek myth, opens on 30 September, with previews from 26 September, and runs until 22 October.

Stumbling down the street drunk at 11.30am Effie is the kind of girl you avoid making eye contact with. You think you know her, but maybe you don’t know the half of it.

Effie’s life is a mess of drink, drugs and drama every night, and a hangover worse than death the next day – till one night gives her the chance to be something more.

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Rachel O’Riordan said: “This play is a call to arms and its relevance now is sharper than ever before. It delves into austerity and cuts; are we colluding as a society where some people get to live and others get to survive? What this play does so beautifully is give voice to something that we can all easily ignore. It gives a platform to the voice of people who are demonised by society and are not given the opportunities in life to thrive. Iphigenia or ‘Effie’ as she is called in the play is extraordinary. Yet, her life can be easily seen as less valuable and what this play does is make her the hero.

“For me, it felt important to bring this work back. Theatre’s role is to showcase us as a society: why we are here and how we got here. It’s not been staged in a proscenium arch theatre before and on our stage, it will play its biggest house ever.

“The reaction to this play, from Berlin to Liverpool, has always been profoundly visceral which is rooted in our connection to Sophie’s incredible performance, Hayley’s dynamic design and Gary’s ferocious story. To me, as a director, and as an Artistic Director that immediate audience reaction is a complete joy. We can recognise truth when we see it and Iphigenia’s story hits you in the heart and in your gut.”

Gary Owen added: “The play was originally written in response to the austerity policies of David Cameron’s government, which slashed public services while pushing the message that we were ‘all in it together’, suffering equally from painful cuts to welfare and health, for the good of the nation as a whole.

“I think it’s certainly true for us in the UK now. Our NHS has been under-funded for a decade. The pandemic has brought it to a point of collapse faster than we might have expected; but that collapse was always coming. People will suffer because of that collapse – and it’s the most vulnerable who suffer the most.

“What the play aims to do is present someone who is obnoxious, offensive, aggressive, who doesn’t help herself, who is a nightmare to live next door to; then it presents her suffering. It dares us to say that her suffering doesn’t count…if we can.”

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