Written by Natalie Joy Quesnel
Sappho…in 9 Fragments is a challenging piece for audience members, but don’t let that stop you from booking your advance tickets now. Judging by the attentive sold-out opening night crowd, this show will be a hit at this year’s Ottawa Fringe Festival.
Seamlessly weaving the past and present, the disarmingly beautiful Victoria Grove effortlessly brings to life the Greek love poet Sappho. While her reputation lived on, much of her work was lost or destroyed leaving room for speculation, gossip, and presumption. The audience is left to try to fill in the gaps of her now fragmented life. Juxtaposed with the sensual and strong Sappho is the anxious and eager Atthis, a young chorus girl who finds herself in her own sapphic romance. Grove is an exceptional solo performer, fully embodying her characters with grace and ease, using precise vocal changes and mannerisms. Her performance is enchanting.
Jessica Ruano’s direction and effective use of the set (surely one of the most unique of the festival) created the ideal environment for this story. The use of light and shadow while the performer acrobatically filled every inch of the space was extremely evocative. Though the pacing and delivery was breathtaking, I often found myself craving stillness and silence. Some of the physical and verbal imagery was so beautiful that I wished Grove would have remained still for some moments, slowing down some of her delivery, allowing us to soak up the poetry before being forced to move on. That being said, it’s a small criticism for a production that is overall stimulating, captivating, and a pleasure to watch.