The Greek poet Sappho, all but erased from history save for fragments of her poetry here and there, has been used as a personification of anything and everything, from the “fallen woman,” to a feminist icon, to champion of lesbian love. Due to her very mystery, people throughout history have put their own frustrations and hopes in her. That is, until now. Sappho… in 9 Fragments, written by Jane Montgomery Griffiths and directed by Jessica Ruano give Sappho her own voice to vent about her appropriation. The set, beautiful in its simplicity, is a cage-like structure with ropes draped across the top and sides. Victoria Grove, who plays Sappho, as well as Atthis, a modern-day chorus girl embarking on her own sapphic romance with an egotistical actress, reminds you why one-person shows can be better than a full-ensemble production. She is what every actress or actor should strive to be. You barely notice as she slides seamlessly, sensually from role to role. Her magnetic stage presence draws you in as she acts with every inch of her body and voice; she has the ability to break your heart with the flick of a finger or the wink of an eye.
Ruano exploits Grove’s physicality to the most, as the actress skips through and climbs the ropes and supports of the structure. Every move seems to be choreographed, as Grove throws herself (sometimes literally) into the emotions of the text. The lighting adds another sensual element to the play, at times caressing Grove in a soft orange glow and at others silhouetting her. My one recommendation would be to get rid of the Greek poetry that opens and closes the show. It’s a nice idea for a play that seeks to give an author her voice back, but ultimately, it’s doesn’t add much for a predominantly English audience. Perhaps it could be incorporated in a different way, such as a recorder, quieter voice – less emphasis, but still there. Overall, it’s a show well worth seeing and a great directorial effort for one of Ottawa’s own.
Sappho…in 9 Fragments
Directed by: Jessica Ruano
Designer: Ana Ines Jabares
Lighting designer: Sarah Crocker
Sound designer: Luca Romagnoli
Aerial Consultant: Jani NighChild
Graphic Artist: Darren Lacey