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.