Sappho... in 9 Fragments - Theatre Review

'Sappho... in 9 Fragments' by Jane Montgomery Griffiths, produced by Second Skin Theatre at The White Rabbit Cocktail Club
16th – 27th Jan 2013, now extended until 3rd Feb 2013
Running time: approximately 1 hour 10 mins (no interval)

'Sappho... in 9 Fragments' is a one woman show, set in an intimate basement. The stage is a metal structure with drapes and ropes. As the drapes are unravelled, the story begins. Victoria Grove plays the two characters of Sappho and Atthis, and seems to be telling the story of a relationship between them from the two different perspectives. The start of the play is challenging; some of the dialogue is hard to follow and it’s difficult to understand what Sappho/Atthis is trying to explain to us. The room is also very small, so that as an audience member, you are initially conscious of breathing or drinking too loudly. An air of uncertainty lingers, but then gradually something amazing happens.

Sappho/Atthis’s tale becomes clearer, each character settles into the mind and you are lost in the world that Victoria Grove creates. Her monologue of love, sexuality, disappointment and fear of inadequacy strikes a chord. Repeated phrases such as ‘Never prod a pebble on a beach’ run through the play, with some memorable quotes like ‘Love need not destroy us but it does’ and a few very funny lines later on that appear completely out of the blue. The intensity of Grove’s performance, the deftness with which she switches between the two characters, altering her voice - sweet and young for Atthis, husky and rich tones for Sappho, makes a lasting impression. But it’s not just the vocals of Grove that amaze. Her physicality enriches the words; she climbs on the metal structure, hangs upside down and swings on the ropes like she is lying in a hammock. Impressive and circus-like, vulgar and innocent; Grove manages to portray vulnerability and strength with just the right balance.

Some of the Greek mythology references are particularly highbrow, and there are sections of the piece that feel just above the grasp of full comprehension, but somehow that makes it all the more beautiful, as you are free to interpret it in your own way. The title itself admits that it is fragmented and Atthis even tells us that it’s hard to tell a story when you don’t remember all the parts. That’s realistic, for our memories and the stories that we tell are not always linear or easy to follow.

Victoria Grove dominates the space with the lives of Sappho and Atthis; 'Sappho... in 9 Fragments' is written, directed and executed with passion. A well spent 70 minutes in a basement in Stoke Newington.

© Carmen Ali 24th January 2013


Sappho/Atthis – Victoria Grove

Creative Team:

Director – Jessica Ruano
Designer – Ana Ines Jabares
Lighting Designer – Sarah Crocker
Sound Designer – Luca Romagnoli
Aerial Consultant – Jani Night Child
Stage Manager – Duncan Stevens
Production Assistant – Melissa Lust
Front of House Manager – Jethro Dykes
Graphic Artist – Darren Lacey

Venue access: stairs lead down to performance room, unsure of wheelchair access

Venue: White Rabbit Theatre, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UL

Editors note: ' 9 fragments' transfered to the Rose theatre, bankside until 2nd June

Author's review: