Since 600 BC, Sappho has been composing wedding songs and writing sensual poems circulated on fragmentary papyrus through the millennia and around the world. And now, twenty-six centuries later, she releases her much-anticipated first-ever full-length audio recording. Praise Aphrodite!
In celebration of this epic achievement from Ancient Greece’s infamous poet, actor Victoria Grove and director Jessica Ruano are remounting their award-winning production of ‘SAPPHO…in 9 fragments’ by Jane Montgomery Griffiths for THREE NIGHTS ONLY in East London’s ARCH 1 from 7th to 9th May, 2014.
ARCH 1 (arch1.co.uk), managed by Robert Clarke, is an intimate live music and performance venue located underneath a railway arch in East London. For the past 5 years, ARCH 1 has hosted a wild array of up-and-coming musicians, comedians and performers in its unique setting. SAPPHO will be the first theatre production to play at this venue.
SAPPHO …in 9 fragments plays at ARCH 1 Live Music, Cranberry Lane, East London, E16 4BJ. Closest stations: West Ham (Jubilee line) and Star Lane (DLR). 7th to 9th May, 2014, Wednesday to Friday at 8pm.
Advance Tickets: $12/10 at http://arch1.co.uk/index.php/get-tickets.
Audio recordings of the script – produced by Richard Causon at Leif Storm Studios – may be purchased online, or at the venue.
If you’re not already following, be sure to check out our Twitter page @sappho9fragment for daily Sappho poems in celebration of National Poetry Month. Twenty-six centuries later, and the old girl’s still publishing!
Thanks to Julie Laurin for this beautiful video of Sappho’s performance in Ottawa this June.
Sappho…in 9 Fragments – Until 10 August, 19:15, theSpace @ Venue 45
Reviewed by Vivienne Egan
A lone woman twists and writhes in a maze of ropes, her husky voice echoing from behind curtains in a foreign tongue. This is Sappho, the woman whose poetry and practice gave birth to the term lesbian as we know it today. Despite her fame and notoriety, there are only nine extant fragments of her work today, leaving us with gaps, textual lacunas, to fill.
These gaps take on a highly symbolic quality within this one-woman play by Jane Montgomery Griffiths, as the ancient Sappho revels in her subversiveness and rails against the voices overlaid on her work by men, who attempt to fill in the gaps, “mansplaining” Sappho to the masses.
As they play progresses, we see a modern day Sapphic love story play out between two women, actors in a piece of ancient Greek theatre: one, a mature and respected performer, the other a recent graduate who falls in love with her, Atthis (the object of the literary Sappho’s love). The searing pain and unbearable longing that makes Sappho’s work so remarkable is brought to life with a startling immediacy.
Victoria Grove’s performance of Sappho/Atthis is many things that are culturally forbidden of women: in control, physically dominant and even aggressive. She gets sweaty, she subverts heteronormativity. It’s at once highly literary and basely animalistic. With only a short Fringe run, it’s sure to sell out.
Review by Libby Purves, former theatre critic for The Times
An almost unbelievable hour. Victoria Grove, directed by Jessica Ruano, speaks sometimes as Sappho reflecting on her life and the images succeeding centuries have had of her – poet, lover, lesbian, dissident, mother, suicide, symbol of women’s education or just an empty vessel for female longings.
Review by Joseph Cunningham
As fleeting as the surviving Sapphic snippets themselves, Sappho… In 9 Fragments shall vanish from Edinburgh come tomorrow and this review will be nothing more than dusty scholarship forcing assertions onto an absent void. There’s got to be some sort of metaphor here. Jane Montgomery Griffiths and Jessica Ruano present a rich tale of Sappho (Victoria Grove) lamenting her fragmented existence. Exceptionally little remains from the pioneer of love poetry – who also happened to be both female and bisexual – and almost all of our knowledge is derived from scholarly speculation on what is, in essence, an empty space. Spliced into the complaint is a narrative inspired by On Love & Desire fragment V: two lines of which exist. This is the delicious irony of the show. Sappho may be naught but distortion, yet distortion is all we have. Her words may be missing, yet the beauty of her poetry lives on in many forms.
Grove’s performance oozes luxury. Sensuous and husky, listening to her delivery of the euphonic script feels like it should be a forbidden pleasure. Effortlessly athletic, she swings, stretches, swoops about the stage. The whole experience could be likened to drowning in honey. Much like drowning in honey, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. It is so easy to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the performance that occasionally the storyline becomes hard to follow, particularly if one does not possess significant knowledge of Greek Lyric and its derivatives. It’s the same problem as with Shakespeare: only the knowledgeable can afford not to strain to concentrate.
Utterly spellbinding to watch is the use of the set: a crudely constructed cube of steel bars with ropes slicing through like a spider web. An incomplete set for an incomplete character, Sappho in the creation of her story twists and contorts the ropes to fashion her images. It is beautiful and ties in perfectly with the message of the show.
Equal parts playful and intense, this production is mesmerising. Heavy, heady, I still have honey coming out of my eyeballs.