Iphis

Tue 9th – Sat 13th February 2016

reviews

Elizabeth Crowdy

at 19:11 on 10th Feb 2016

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Seeing Iphis, Charlotte Cromie’s new original piece of theatre in the Corpus Playroom last night was a thought provoking experience, and though there were places where the production lost momentum, it is an intriguing piece of new writing worth seeing.

The use of physical theatre in this piece had a beautiful aesthetic quality, with the obviously dance trained cast giving a visually rich interpretation of the change Iphis undergoes in the temple. There were distinct ‘passages’ of physical theatre which could have been worked into the rest of the dialogue a little more, although there were movements towards this in the scenes between post-transformation Iphis (Ben Martineau) and her wife Ianthe (Isla Cowan). These scenes constituted the most moving parts of the production, with the scene discussing the culminating disaster of the play (no spoilers…) proving particularly emotionally charged. Jasper Vardag-Hunter was a successfull as the sinister Ligdus (father to Iphis), and the brief physical interactions between himself and Myfanwy Hill conveyed the abusive situation within their relationship without need for an explicit spelling out.

The script is an intelligent piece of writing which uses Ovid’s Metamorphoses in interesting ways to discuss transsexuality, sexuality, mental health and domestic abuse, the overarching narrative points. There were some parts where the ideas Iphis presents which diverge from the ancient Roman setting became slightly jarring, as the formation of the lines sounded like they came from the voice of a modern day society rather than being integrated into the setting of ancient Rome where women not being possessions (for example) would have been a difficult idea to process. However, this served to connect the ancient, mythological tone of the piece to the immediacy and relevance of the issues in modern society.

The lack of staging, props and costume meant that visual interest was lacking, and my attention was overly focused on the props used, for example the pink wedding veil which doubled as a bed. This may have been a problem of budget, hopefully in future productions some astute choices of costume and staging will be used to enhance the performance. The lighting partially helped to compensate for lack of other visual interest on stage, with a blue wash transforming a plastic sheet into a wave, and lack of lighting giving a dramatic and sinister edge to scenes lit purely by (electric) candle. There were also many parts in the production where the energy of the dialogue dropped, and some of the conversations became similar in tone, an aspect of the play which I am sure will improve as the actors gain momentum throughout the run.

Seeing new student writing in Cambridge is always exciting, and though Iphis had a few lulls, it was a thought-provoking production which I hope will be staged again in other settings and mature in a great modern take on Ovid’s tale.

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