2700 years ago, Sappho is the first love poet, the tenth muse of the ancient Greeks and the inspiration for every lovelorn writer and songster since. But history catches up with her, and over time, Sappho become just a gap to be filled with the lusts and desires of each new generation.
Sappho…In 9 Fragments is brought to the Malthouse Theatre by acclaimed stage actor, theatre-maker, academic, writer and world authority on Greek drama, Jane Montgomery Griffiths.
"The basis of the play is that Sappho has been seen and reimagined over the centuries," Griffiths says. "The main thrust of the storyline is the way she has given us access to our own needs. And the gap in desire."
Sappho…in 9 fragments is a roller-coaster, tour de force through two and a half millennia of Sappho’s story, weaving together the strange tale of her fragmented reception with a contemporary love story in her own words. As a timeless Sappho relives her uses and abuses through history, in the modern world a heart-broken young woman tries to piece together the fragments of her sexual awakening.
"The Sappho character is an intellectual Grande Dame," Griffiths says. "But it’s about what happens to a woman. It’s about the revivification of a woman who doesn’t necessarily want to be revivified, and she’s stuck in this honey, like formaldehyde. And how she can’t have her own passion. The characters are in fact very fluid. You hear echoes between them. What you don’t quite know is that the edges between the older woman and a younger woman, between Sappho and Atthis, get a bit blurred."
When first performed by Griffiths at The Stork Theatre in 2007, the playwas a sell-out hit but this new staging by Marion Potts will be a very different experience. It promises a lush excursion into the annals of desire that will stoke the heart’s fires while ravishing the mind’s eye.
"The first version was very far from what this will be," Griffiths says. "It was theatre of the mind, whereas the set in this production is going to be very beautiful. It’s a very theatrical version. It’s going to be pulling out all the visual stops and it will have a lot of different textures."
Griffiths describes Sappho as being the butt of so many jokes in the classical world however Sappho also raises many questions and has been the topic of study for many poets and academics.
Acclaimed Australian poet Dorothy Porter speaks of Sappho thus: "Sappho’s poems were copiously copied and performed by professional singers all over the Greek world. In her own time she was famous, much like a modern, internationally celebrated singer-songwriter such as Joni Mitchell. But more so, Sappho’s talent was lauded for hundreds of years after her death as extraordinary to the point of freakish. She composed and performed in a belligerently religious man’s world, where artistic gifts were treated with awe and believed to come directly from the gods. What did it mean when the gods so favoured a rather plain woman?"
As Sappho herself reminds us: All education is a form of seduction. Your lesson begins now.
VENUE: BECKETT THEATRE, THE CUB MALTHOUSE, 113 STURT STREET SOUTHBANK VIC AUSTRALIA 3006
OPENING NIGHT: WEDNESDAY 4 AUGUST AT 7PM
SEASON: 30 JULY – 21 AUGUST. TUESDAYS AT 6.30PM. WEDNESDAYS – SATURDAYS AT 7PM. SUNDAYS AT 5.30PM. MATINEES: SATURDAY 14 AUGUST AT 2PM, THURSDAY 19 AUGUST AT 1PM
BOOKING INFO: WWW.MALTHOUSETHEATRE.COM.AU / 03 9685 5111
TICKET PRICES: $23 – $49 + MIN BOOKING FEE $1.50