Sappho tells the story of our titular heroine's struggle as she has to choose between her own desires and the political future of Lesbos - she yearns for the beautiful Adore while her parents insist on her marrying Hercules from the influential Obstinatus family.
The concept here, drawing traditional Greek theatrical techniques to tell an important story that holds relevance today, is interesting. But ultimately, this production feels confused, messy, and in need of some serious redevelopment. 
Wendy Beckett's script itself (though in dire need of editing) contains glimpses of excellence and some catchy sound-bites, most of which are stifled by the sheer lack of any direction of this text throughout. This extends to individual characterisations which are in need of nuance and depth - many of the play's more emotional beats are lost as we simply don't care about any of the characters involved as most are delivering lines without any real grounding or sincerity in the words they speak. Sappho's deep reflections on love and desire feel purposeful but dry, and the Narrator's contemporary interjections, while initially very amusing, soon become tiresome. A general need for better diction within the cast combined with haphazard pacing makes the show feel rushed and under rehearsed. 
Eleanor Kane stands out as a serious talent within the cast - the physicality she brings to Adore in contrast to Hercules is exceptional, and she acts with grace and feeling. 
It must also be noted that Pavlos Thanopoulos' costumes and Adam King's lighting are truly stunning, and what goes some way to saving this piece is Fotis Diamantopoulos' choreography. While the dance sections of the play lack any real consistency within the performance as a whole, they are always captivating, moving, and visually excellent. However, it is a shame that, though Rosie Fletcher's intimacy coordination is fantastically evident through many of the more sensual moments of the play, the desperate dream sequence between Sappho and Adore feels rather anticlimactic (if you'll excuse the pun). 
A story worth telling, but a play that doesn't know what it wants to be, Sappho runs at Southwark Playhouse Elephant until 25th May. 

Review: Penny Lane        Photo: Mark Senior