Sappho… In 9 Fragments

Ian Huffam

            Let me preface this by saying that this show contains some mature references that may not be suitable for all patrons of the Fringe. That said, this show contains very important perspectives that everyone should consider.

Sappho is a one-woman show about both the ancient author as well as a modern actress who finds herself in a relationship similar to that of Sappho and her most famous lover, Atthis. As Sappho hangs in a sort of timeless purgatory and reflects on both the way her reputation has been tarnished by historians whose works were better preserved than hers, the nameless actress finds herself in modern times being seduced by an older woman with more experience and social standing in the theatre. The two characters end up mirroring one relationship across thousands of years, with Sappho acting as the older woman and the actress as her modern-day Atthis. As Sappho laments at the beginning of the show, it’s a relationship that won’t last.

Jane Montgomery Griffiths’s script is elaborate and balanced beautifully, and done even more service by the very talented Victoria Grove, who handles the acting duties. Grove’s voice is both deep and raspy for Sappho and higher and timid-sounding for the actress, and both voices sound so natural. Additionally her handling of the movement as she twists herself up in ropes is admirable.

The visuals in this show are quite striking, a cube of steel rods with ropes tied across for Sappho to hang from. The lighting perfectly captures the mood, with its subtle burn of amber light to the occasional accompaniment of ancient-sounding music that really transports the audience to the ancient island of Lesbos.

The only issue with this show is the overwhelming amount of movement that Grove undertakes throughout, never holding a pose for more than a minute or so before skittering off to face a different side of the thrust-stage setup. It might be less distracting for her to take a position for a little and let her voice do the work.

How then does this show contain important perspectives? It’s not terribly preachy on its themes of same-sex relationships. It’s the lack of emphasis on that aspect that is so refreshing. Sappho’s chief complaint throughout is that her dalliances with her female students are what she’s remembered for, rather than the poetry that was mostly lost to time. Though this show contains queer material it is not defined by it, which makes it honest and surprisingly progressive.

 

Presented by Tenth Muse Theatre

Written by Jane Montgomery Griffiths

Performed by Victoria Grove

Directed by Jessica Ruano

Designed by Ana Ines Jabares

Lighting Design by Sarah Crocker

Sound Design by Luca Romagnoli

Aerial Consultation by Jani NightChild

Graphic Art by Darren Lacey