SAP at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“Jessica Lazar’s luminous direction allows plenty of room for the performers to transform their bodies, and our imaginations”
Rafaella Marcus’ first full length play, directed by Jessica Lazar, for Atticist, and Ellie Keel productions, is a dazzling debut. The whole thing is performed in seventy minutes, with just two performers, outdoors in a tent at the Summerhall in Edinburgh. All of which just adds satisfying layers to this complex and thought provoking theatrical experience. At its simplest, SAP is a modern retelling of the Apollo and Daphne myth. SAP manages to retain the love and predatory desire of the original, as well as the tragedy. Performers Jessica Clark (as Daphne) and Rebecca Banatvala (playing all the other roles) are riveting as the pursuing, and the pursued.
Greek myths told in a new way is a perennially popular choice for playwrights. What makes Rafaella Marcus’ retelling so intriguing is that SAP confronts human sexuality in non binary forms, and in a very contemporary way. The language of SAP is rich and evocative. Metaphors are used lavishly, which suits the method of presentation — that of an extended monologue told by Daphne, and short scenes with two characters that round out the story when needed. Plants are described as images of transformation, but these are not gentle or passive examples of vegetable life. In the character of Daphne, Marcus explores the idea of metamorphosis as a metaphor for bisexuality as well. In the first of several unexpected plot twists, we discover that Daphne’s lovers are brother and sister. She has a casual fling with the brother, then meets the sister, and the two fall passionately in love. But Daphne’s lover is unsympathetic to the idea of bisexuality, and Daphne gets trapped in the first of several lies as she has to hide who she really is. When she meets her male lover again at a family wedding where both siblings are present, the meeting is catastrophic.
There is so much for a couple of talented performers to work with in SAP. Jessica Clark and Rebecca Banatvala are more than up to the challenge. Banatvala takes on the supporting roles, including those of the rival brother and sister. But the play begins and ends with Clark’s non binary character Daphne. Jessica Lazar’s luminous direction allows plenty of room for the performers to transform their bodies, and our imaginations, using the vivid language of Marcus’ script. Banatvala’s ability to shift character with the twitch of an eyebrow or shrug of a shoulder, is particularly breathtaking to watch. But the energy that drives the whole comes from Clark as Daphne. The production is complete and satisfying, and that includes costumes and set (Rūta Irbīte) and the work of sound designer and composer Tom Foskett-Barnes. Catch this production while you can in Edinburgh—and hope that it gets produced elsewhere, and soon.
Reviewed 4th August 2022
by Dominica Plummer
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