Sappho… in 9 Fragments is a solo performance told through two characters: the first, a young chorus girl named Atthis, who is seduced by an older woman she is performing with, and second is Sappho, Ancient Greece’s first love poet as she talks about her erasure from history.
This one-woman show is intense from the get go. As you walk into the room our protagonist is sitting inside an apparatus with white sheets draped over it. As she pulls the sheets down we see our leading lady as Victoria Grove, her long curly hair and tanned skin making it very believable that she could be a seductress at the centre of this story. But her acting completely blows this show out of the water; the way she transforms from one character to another is outstanding. She goes through all of the emotions: love, lust, hate, courage, content, and she holds her ground throughout.
One thing that you always pay attention to in a solo show is the dialogue. Writer Jane Montgomery Griffiths has a hard job on her hands trying to portray one of Ancient Greece’s most famous poets and making it seem real, but one slip could have broken that illusion. She does not. Her dialogue is fluid and flows like poetry, and she even speaks in Greek at some parts.
We also have the heartbreaking story of Atthis, who ends up falling in love with an older woman. It is a complete change from the role of Sappho. Atthis is a naïve, bright-eyed talent who gets torn down in a Sappho-inspired love story. The two stories together are highly complementary,
But the biggest highlight of this little show is the stage setup itself. There is nothing spectacular about it, but the way the space is used is great. The apparatus in the centre has rope, so this gives a chance for Grove to throw herself all around the stage, swinging on the rope and laying on it like a hammock. Having not much stage set up to work with, the show is also reliant on things like light and ambience. The light changes as we go through the “fragments” of the characters, and there is also a great moment when Grove is speaking and all the lights go down, except for one soft light placed at the top of a ladder. She looked so angelic and naïve, by then we were sold.
It takes a special kind of solo show to keep your attention all through out, and Sappho… in 9 Fragments does that and more. The show is a great hidden gem down at Bankside. But do remember that The Rose is an archaeological site, so wrap up warm!
Sappho…in 9 Fragments is playing at Rose Theatre until 2 June. For more information and tickets, see the Rose Theatre website.