Sap, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

by Laura Kressly

Bisexual women are rarely represented in theatre, particularly in a way that doesn’t brush them off as indecisive, slutty or secretly straight or gay. Rafaella Marcus’ unnamed protagonist (played by Jessica Clark) is none of these things. The charity worker genuinely fancies and can fall in love with both women and men. The violence and biphobia she encounters is real, too. Using symbolic imagery, narration and dialogue, the fully-realised character captures the authentic complexities of living and loving as a bi woman.

Though she spends her days as an admin assistant, during the evening she goes on dates and heading out-out to her favourite places frequented by queer women. She meets an exquisite example of her type and both women quickly decide that this could be *the one*. Their time together is the stuff of romantic films and pure, queer joy that’s a pleasure to watch. However, she glosses over her bisexuality with her lesbian girlfriend not through an overt lie but by omission. Though this concealment turns out to be her character’s tragic flaw, it’s an understandable one given the biphobia she experiences from her girlfriend and another lover in the opening scenes of the play. The much darker turn the story takes also effectively emphasises the fact that bi women are at higher risk of intimate partner violence than gay or straight people.

In moments of vulnerability, Marcus draws on symbolism inspired by plants – strength comes from roots that send energy through strong branches. These scenes are rich in their description and connect the main character to the wider world around her, beyond the people in her life. Whilst at times this hints at mental illness that isn’t fully explored, these infrequent sections are beautiful to listen to.

Rebecca Banatvala as Clark’s character’s girlfriend and other characters is a fantastic foil. She is stoic, grounded and often stern where Clark is buoyant and bubbly. They make a convincing couple and have captivating chemistry. There’s no set apart from a mirrored floor, but it’s not needed. The performances and Marcus’ rich and recognisable story make a gently proud and sorely needed contribution to bisexual theatre.

Sap runs through 28 August.

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