Atticist’s staging of Rafaella Marcus’ playwriting debut Sap is absolutely astonishing. The tale of a bisexual woman caught up in an abusive and manipulative relationship is as fresh as the botanical metaphors which run through the entire piece. Detailed, dynamic and daring, it is a genuinely exciting piece of theatre to be staged at this year’s Fringe festival.
Although our protagonist Daphne is never named as such in the play, it’s hard for audiences not to connect with actress Jessica Clark’s crackling energy in the lead role. She makes eye contact with almost every single one of us, and breaks the fourth wall with a handful of audience members. Her character is often flustered but in such a way that it is amiable, as she is often either sarky in her commentary or staggering over the speed of her rapid thoughts. The pace established by Jessica Lazar is dynamic and electric, as the tension and antagonist is quickly unveiled.
Daphne, after having sex with a man and then lying to her new girlfriend about being bisexual, soon finds herself embroiled in the most sinister blackmail from the former. Both characters are played by Rebecca Banatvala, though it’s as the male individual where she shines, nailing the typical swagger and presenting the role with a certain calmness which is chilling in comparison to Clark’s rigour. There is, at one point, a sense that it could all be framed within a solo play with a single character, but the contrast between the two actresses makes Sap what it is: a play with riveting pace and remarkable writing.
The introduction to the playtext makes it clear that Daphne is a nymph, while the show itself doesn’t, but her becoming a tree still serves as a casual metaphor for growth and empowerment if nothing else. There is, however, a far more real issue at the heart of Marcus’ script which pertains to the under-acknowledged fact that bisexual woman are at an increased risk of intimate partner violence. The way in which Sap tackles the sensitive topic is intense and unabashed. Its storytelling is visionary, and its subject matter is vital.
Sap is now playing at Summerhall, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, until 28 August.
Production Images: David Monteith-Hodge.