It’s a trend that is ever on the rise, that of the actor as musician: a pity, then, that in this production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, the instruments drown out the unamplified vocals. I would have liked to have known what was being sung. On a completely different note, so to speak, the lighting could have been done better. Much of the stage in an in-the- round setting was fully lit for much of the performance, and a large banqueting table and its contents ended up proving somewhat distracting when action and/or dialogue was taking place at one end of the performance space. That the lighting was more focused in one of the last scenes only served to underline this point.
Is it, to quote the tune, “because I’m a Londoner”, that I didn’t find this production as decadent or excessive as I had been expecting? The sort of things one sees in central London (or even outer London) are not dissimilar from, for example, Iokanaan (Matthew Wade). There are actual religious folk spouting ‘prophecies’ and doomsday utterings about, with more venom and lack of coherence than could be witnessed here.
As for Moon (Annabelle Brown), I found the character completely unnecessary. The standard of harmonising and instrument playing was very high, but failed to add to the play’s atmosphere. Her wailing and cries were so loud at one point that I missed a piece of dialogue altogether. It got to the point where I almost gave up trying to follow the narrative and do my best to enjoy the excessively loud chanting. It was distracting, to say the least, though Salome (Denise Moreno) did extremely well to project above what was effectively competition.
My enjoyment of the production somewhat dampened thanks to a failure on my part to bring ear defenders along with me, King Herod (Konstantinos Kavakiotis) is so melodramatic he simply cannot be taken seriously. Now, if this was intentional, I offer the production my congratulations. Was this an attempt to out-Herod Herod? While some in the audience found it comical, I found it merely pretentious at best and downright irritating at worst. Queen Herodias (Helen Bang) at least had good reason for her own melodrama, given her husband’s state of mind.
It is hard to empathise with Herod, all noise without much substance, and he seemed to go on and on. I longed for the portrayal of the dance of the seven veils for which the play as well as the New Testament story from which it is derived. When it came, I am pleased to report, I couldn’t fault it.
The play may well have been devised in a previous generation, but where this production does well is in putting across Salome’s consistently and insistently making clear what she would like. Today’s feminists will enjoy seeing this young lady stating her demand, having both the Man of the Palace (Tobias Deacon) and King Herod repeatedly attempt to steer her away from what she asks for, before Salome ultimately succeeds in securing her wish. The gentlemen’s pleas are certainly spirited and energetic. And how often, even in our day, does a benefactor say they will grant whatever their intended recipient wants, only to attempt to renege if the request that follows is not palatable to the said benefactor?
This production, all in all, has some appeal, and can even be delightful when it wants to be. But, to return to my first point, Oscar Wilde’s plays are best enjoyed when one can fully appreciate the words in the text. That I could not always do so was a tad frustrating.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Decadence… beauty… lust… envy… desire. The words of a prophet, a mother’s envy, a stepfather’s desire, a spoilt young girl’s demand, and a dance that turns the moon red…
Theatre Lab’s Salomé is a spellbinding visual spectacle set in the 1930s where King Herod celebrates his birthday with a sumptuous banquet in the decadent and beautiful Victorian Hoxton Hall. Highly acclaimed, critics and reviewers internationally have noted its aesthetic, excellent performances, and avant-garde and beautiful visuals.
Theatre Lab’s Salomé, directed by Anastasia Revi, is a spellbinding visual spectacle that evokes the soul of the writer, Oscar Wilde.
Salome – Denise Moreno
King Herod – Konstantinos Kavakiotis
Queen Herodias – Helen Bang
Iokannan (A Prophet) – Matthew Wade
Man of the Palace – Tobias Deacon
Young Syrian – Benoit Gouttenoire
Eros – Annabelle Brown
Director Anastasia Revi
Costumes Valentina Sanna
Musical Director Annabelle Brown
Lighting Designer Yiannis Katsaris
Producer Martina Reynolds
130 Hoxton Street
London N1 6SH
Box office:020 7684 0060
Tuesday 31 January – Saturday 11 February at 8.15pm
Show runs 70mins no interval