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  • Isabelle Hill

Review - Sappho

Southwark Playhouse Elephant

Playing until 25th May 2024

Photo credit: Mark Senior

Review {AD-PR Gifted}

Sappho stands as a theatrical endeavour that aims to skillfully intertwine ancient poetry, modern music, and contemporary dance, transporting audiences to the landscapes of 6th century BC Lesbos. Wendy Beckett, the playwright, adeptly reimagines the life of the legendary poet Sappho, weaving a narrative that explores her passionate same-sex relationships amidst the societal pressures of conformity and putting others above yourself.


Directed by Beckett alongside Adam Fitzgerald, the production creates a fusion of elements. Mehdi Bourayou's musical compositions and Fotis Diamantopoulos's choreography infuse the play with a layer of dynamism and grace. At its core, Sappho is propelled by the magnetic performance of Georgie Fellows, who embodies the spirit of Sappho with a delicate balance of vulnerability and strength. Velile Tshabalala mesmerises as Aphrodite, captivating the audience with her ethereal presence, while Emmanuel Akwafo injects humour and charm into the narrative as the campy narrator.


However, amidst its promising components, Sappho grapples with certain challenges. The script, at times, veers into convolution, leaving certain plot points less impactful than desired. Additionally, while the thematic debates on democracy, freedom of expression, and social change are pertinent, they lack the depth needed to resonate fully with the audience. At times it also felt disingenuous to add discussion around these topics; making the dialogue feel forced rather than a natural flow. Whilst the majority of these references and jokes gained a laugh, some fell flat. The innovative elements of the play, such as the fusion of ancient and modern, occasionally result in disjointedness rather than seamless integration.


In summary, Sappho offers a glittering glimpse into the life of a remarkable poet, yet it falls short of fully realising its potential. With further refinement, this production could shine even brighter, illuminating the complexities of love, identity, and societal expectations in a more cohesive manner. Despite its flaws, Sappho remains a captivating theatrical experience, offering moments of brilliance amidst occasional detours into less engaging territory. For those seeking a blend of flamboyance and introspection, Sappho still promises an unforgettable journey through the life and works of one of antiquity's most mysterious figures.



Playwright: Wendy Beckett

Co-Directors: Wendy Beckett and Adam Fitzgerald

Choreographer: Fotis Diamantopoulos

Set Designer: Halcyon Pratt

Costume Designer: Pavlos Thanopoulos

Lighting Designer: Adam King

Music and Sound Designer: Mehdi Bourayou

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