Societies bowdlerise that which they don’t wish to face in its entirety. Because of this, Western civilisation has chosen to all but forget the rampant misogyny endemic to Ancient Greek culture. Perhaps that’s also why all that survives of the lyric poet Sappho, are fragments and other people’s (mostly men’s) notions of her.
Sappho… in 9 Fragments is a one-woman show, combining physical theatre with poetic dialogue. Victoria Grove delivers this epic monologue from the perspective of both Sappho; casting a cynical eye over her legacy, and Atthis (a character from Sappho’s poetry); describing her own modern-day lesbian love affair.
The audience enters to find Grove hanging elegantly from her rope bower, beshrouded by ripped linen pennons and illuminated by a glow as golden as the Aegean sun, giving the production a strong, sultry sexuality. In a remarkably supple display, Grove swings about her frame, beads of sweat swelling from her flesh. Yet what she discusses in her husky tones is the way Sappho has been objectified and sanitised through succeeding ages to the point where the corporeal woman almost never existed – the painful, temporal reality embodied by Atthis. Though it may prove alienating to some, this remains a visually and philosophically enthralling show.