Here is an ancient tale with a modern twist. Rafaella Marcus’s debut play, Sap, is a loose retelling of the story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses where Apollo pursues the nymph Daphne until she transforms into a laurel tree. As in the original, nature is at the centre but this time Daphne is a bisexual woman who has a job with a charity.
The play starts with Daphne’s one-night stand with a man she meets at a work event; he is the type that is “exactly what you think of when you think of just a guy”. Before long she has fallen head over heels in love with a “wonder woman” she locked eyes with in a lesbian bar but there’s one small issue – she doesn’t date girls who “can’t make up their mind”.
Deciding to keep quiet about her true sexual identity leads to a seed being planted deep in Daphne’s stomach. Bark encloses her skin; roots sink her deeper down into the earth. Once an unlikely and unlucky connection between her two most recent lovers is realised, a more menacing future lies ahead.
Jessica Clark plays this Daphne with a frantic edge – the character’s need to please makes words catapult out of her before she has time to think them through. Clark also does a remarkable job of finding light and shade in a text that is dense but has might. Centring on the experiences of bisexual women, who are significantly more likely than heterosexual and lesbian women to be abused by their partner, it blends the past with the reality of the present. Peppered with artful what-could-have-been moments and self-aware sides, this mammoth story is squeezed skilfully into 70 minutes – and for the most part, it drives.
Director Jessica Lazar makes a stage that is kept entirely bare seem busy. Clark paces in circles as she reels through her story. In the stifling standoff between Daphne and her chaser, the empty space between them raises the tension. Presented by Atticist and Ellie Keel Productions, this is a glorious tapestry of a play.
At Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh, until 28 August