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Hit play a queer urban fable about bisexuality

Edinburgh award-winning SAP at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, from March 16-18. Review by JON LEWIS

Jessica Lazar’s taut Atticist and Ellie Keel Productions presentation of Rafaella Marcus’ two-hander SAP is a complex, multi-layered thriller about a young woman with a complicated love life.

Daphne (Jessica Clark) is a thirtysomething woman who works for a London-based women’s aid charity. The play is structured from Daphne’s point of view, like a first-person narrative seen in solo-shows. For the audience, Daphne is nameless unless people have bought the play text.

It comes as a surprise when other characters intrude into the story, all played by Rebecca Banatvala. The plot revolves around Daphne’s relationships with two unnamed lovers. The first is a one-night stand who Daphne tags as hot, a player who hits on women with a high body count. The second is a ‘goddess’ and ‘the absolute queen of my type’, a woman she eyes up in a bar, and an encounter that develops into a stable relationship. This new lover is a lesbian who says she’s broken up with previous partners because they were bisexual. Daphne begins their passionate affair with a lie, hiding her bisexuality, that haunts her subsequently.

Jessica Clarke, Rebecca Bantvala, SAP, Edinburgh Fringe 2022, picture David Monteith-Hodge
Jessica Clarke, Rebecca Bantvala, SAP, Edinburgh Fringe 2022, picture David Monteith-Hodge

Daphne’s tale takes a horrific turn because of an unexpected coincidence; it emerges that her current and previous lovers are sister and brother. Her fate rests on the brother not telling his sister about their night of passion and her bisexuality. Power shifts in his favour, his increasingly passive aggressive visits to her place when the sister is away become threatening. He becomes a mix of stalker and blackmailer.

The poetic references in the text suggest another story is being enacted; away from the City and Docklands, these characters are also figures from Greek mythology. This duality is revealed after a horrific encounter between Daphne and the brother where (in her mind) she is transformed into a tree, the sap of the play’s title empowering her with superpower strength to resist him. Daphne is a nymph whom the god Apollo desired, while his twin sister is Artemis, goddess of hunting. Clark gives a remarkably playful and nuanced performance with Banatvala as a marvellous foil.

An excellent production.

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