“A passionate and physical performance”
Review by Tessa Hart
‘SAPPHO …in 9 fragments’ by Jane Montgomery Griffiths retraces the steps of the Ancient Greek love poet Sappho, whilst also presenting a transition of her character into a contemporary love story.
Performed by Victoria Grove, directed by Jessica Ruano with a set design by Ana Ines Jabares, this highly physical production has just transferred to the Rose Theatre (Bankside), before it is set to tour Canada and Edinburgh.
Grove brings an incredible stage presence to the piece and does not only portray the many sides of Sappho, such as the independent, the sexual, the lesbian, the celebrity or the mother, but she also plays Atthis, the young girl caught in a romance with a contemporary version of Sappho.
Jabares’ set is masterpiece in itself, within which, Grove transforms from one into the next whilst the space transforms with her. She moves across the various stages Sappho steps through on her journey, delivering a highly athletic performance, climbing, jumping, and dangling in what seems literally every way possible. The greatest strength, however, lies in her stillness; whenever she comes to a rest, we move from watching a physical act to witnessing a deeply sensual and captivating performance.
It was a truly special occasion to be able to watch this production at the Rose Theatre. The venue and play seem like a perfect match: two forgotten and neglected masterpieces, fallen apart, put back together in fragments. Ruano’s incorporation of the vast emptiness and openness of the space adds beautifully to the atmosphere of the piece. We are thrown back and forth between the intimate, personal world of Sappho and the constant reminder of the rest of the world somewhere out there in the darkness.
The lighting and sound scapes are another credit to the production, being very subtle, yet defining. It is especially the harmonic fusion of Grove’s performance with the sound and light effects that turn the show into an even more entrancing experience.
In conclusion, particularly for those with some background knowledge on the poet, ‘SAPPHO …in 9 fragments’ is an exciting and intoxicating excursion into the imagined, poetic and feminine world of Sappho.