Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022 Theatre Review: Sap (Roundabout @ Summerhall) ★★★★★

When a woman tells a little lie, she can have no idea of the ways that it will germinate, sprout and grow. This new take on ancient mythology creates a Metamorphoses for the modern era, examining the power of shame and the roots it can take in all aspects of a person’s life.

Funny, dark and impactful, Rafaella Marcus’ spellbinding debut play is full of surprising twists. The narrative is cleverly conceived, the lighthearted giving way to an air of menace and foreboding that pervades the text and space. Drawing on the myth of “Daphne and Apollo”, Sap puts a spotlight on bi-visibility, and the pressures to conform when the world wants you to fit into a prescribed box.

Rebecca Banatvala and Jessica Clark in Sap. Photo credit: David Monteith-Hodge.

Expertly performed by Jessica Clark, the central character is likeable and relatable, sharing her insecurities with the audience through lyrical prose and deadpan asides. Uncomfortable with owning her bisexuality, she worries aloud about “letting the side down” and being seen as someone who “can’t make up her mind”. This leads her to people pleasing behaviour, saying what she thinks others want to hear rather than finding a comfort with herself. Following discovery of an unfortunate link between her last two partners, her deceit is weaponised, leading her down a dangerous path.  

Rebecca Banatvala is commanding in her multiple roles, each carefully delineated and an ever-present driver for Clark’s actions. Jessica Lazar’s deft direction makes full use of the space, while simultaneously utilising the close quarters to amplify the feeling that Clark is cornered. With powerful movement direction by Jennifer Fletcher, the moments of physical connection between the two are electric.

Rebecca Banatvala and Jessica Clark in Sap. Photo credit: David Monteith-Hodge.

Examining the impact of coercive control and interpersonal violence, Marcus weaves in the increased risk of domestic abuse that bisexual women face in comparison with their heterosexual or lesbian counterparts. Underscored by Tom Foskett-Barnes’ evocative sound design and enhanced by David Doyle’s lighting, Sap is a powerful play that won’t soon be forgotten.

By Deborah Klayman

Sap plays at Summerhall, Edinburgh until 28th August 2022 (not 16th or 23rd).

Sap by Rafaella Marcus runs at Summerhall, Edinburgh until 28th August 2022 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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