Photos - Jeff Busby
Jane Montgomery Griffiths’ one woman show ‘fills in the gaps’ of the elusive life of Sappho, with enthralling dramatic artistry, sharp wit, and academic considerations.
There is little we know about the Greek poet, who lived and wrote over 2,700 years ago. Her poetry, that spoke mostly of love and longing, survived only in fragments, and much of her legend has been bequeathed onto us through the many competing and at times, conflicting analyses and interpretations of her work. She has been called the 10th Muse, a lesbian, the first love poet, and many more, but how much do we really know about Sappho? It is this struggle to arrive at the truth of her identity that is explored in this show.
Griffiths’ Sappho is aristocratic, womanising, sophisticated, erotic, bodacious but also vulnerable. In this performance, Griffiths is the Greek poet, segueing back and forth from reflecting on scholars’ interpretations of her, to a contemporary re-enactment of a love affair with Atthis, a woman mentioned in one of the poet’s fragments as her lover.
These two distinct narratives give us two different perspectives of poet; one as an object of analysis, the other as a human being, writhed with emotions. As the former, a satirical outlook is cast, which makes up much of the humour of the show. Here, Griffiths displays an acute academic understanding of Sappho, taking plenty of comedic jibes at writers such as Jeanette Winterson, but not with malicious intent. Rather, in doing so, she suggests the notion that interpretations of Sappho’s fragments are often the projection of one’s own desires to fill in the blanks, and are not necessarily true representations of the poet.
Sappho truly comes to life in Griffith’s re-enactment of an ill-fated love affair. She is, like her poetry, a fragmented human being - imperfect, desperate, and detached. Her relationship with Atthis is used as an instrument to reveal Griffith’s own vision of the poet, which ironically makes her guilty of bestowing her own image on the poet.
Sappho…in 9 Fragments weaves together an original script with some of the poet’s own work. Fans of Sappho and Classics will immediately appreciate the inside jokes, which are plenty witty, gloriously irreverent, and erudite. Griffiths’ performance is captivating from the moment she appears stark naked on stage to the very end, and her ability to contort her voice to express a myriad of emotions or assume the many facets of Sappho, whether erotic, hurt, or defensive, is uncanny. She is a truly gifted storyteller, who is in herself as fascinating to watch, as Sappho is enigmatic.
Special mentions have to go to Anna Cordingley for her brilliant set design and Paul Jackson’s lighting work, which brilliantly transforms to mirror the many moods of the show.
Malthouse Theatre presents
Sappho… In 9 Fragments
Written and performed by Jane Montgomery Griffiths
Staging by Marion Potts
Venue: Beckett Theatre | The Cub Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street Southbank
Opening Night: Wednesday 4 August At 7PM
Season: 30 July – 21 August, 2010
Times: Tuesdays @ 6.30pm. Wednesdays – Saturdays @ 7pm. Sundays @ 5.30pm
Matinees: Saturday 14 August @ 2pm, Thursday 19 August @ 1pm
Tickets: $23 – $49 + Min Booking Fee $1.50
Bookings: www.malthousetheatre.com.au | 03 9685 5111