11 August 2010

Review: Sappho... in 9 Fragments

Sappho... in 9 Fragments
Malthouse Theatre
4 August 2010
Beckett Theatre, CUB Malthouse
to 21 August 


With passion, honesty and humour, Jane Montgomery Griffiths makes Sappho... in 9 Fragments a show not to miss if you like theatre with guts, heart and brain,

Sappho was born in Lesbos and wrote in the sixth and seventh centuries BCE. Her remaining fragmented poetry speaks of desire and love and, as Griffiths says, she is as dykonic as Martina and k.d, and as much loved by the cliterati as Jeanette Winterson.

Writer, researcher and performer Griffiths weaves her impressions of Sappho with the story of a young woman's steps into a sexual world of passion and indifference, longing and humiliation. With images like trying to warm a room with a hair drier, she brings this poetic and metaphorical world into our own awkward lives, and adds a relevance and understanding to the academic nature of the study as she laments that Electra became a more popular name than Sappho, because a matricide is preferable to a lesbian.

First seen naked with a shaved head, Griffiths's toned androgyny is as open and complex as Sappho's work. The addition of comfy undies help to define her gender and outlook, and a lush fur coat adds power, control and something to hide behind.

Anna Cordingley's clever costumes wrap Sappho in meaning, and her beautiful design, featuring a glass case slowly emptying of honey in a world that could be cut from an ancient Greek temple or newly-designed coastal home, underscores the text with its own revelations. This is the first time, I've seen Cordingly's design at one with the text and it makes her work shine, as does Paul Jackson's exquisite lighting.  Jackson knows the power of light and colour and lets it be so much more than a statement about what we can or cannot see.

Originally performed three years ago, Marion Potts has re-staged  Sappho... in 9 Fragments for Malthouse. Potts, who recently directed Griffiths as an unforgettable Goneril in Bell Shakespeare's King Lear, lets her actors find a very personal response to their characterisation, but ensures that the character stays in control, while her staging creates an unconscious reaction to the text by always keeping the whole picture alive. With these performances as the bar, we can hope to see more of Griffiths, as Potts become Artistic Director of Malthouse Theatre in 2011.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

Malthouse preview



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