There are so many various ways of performing Oscar Wilde’s Salome, as I continue to discover, that a viewing of a different production can seem incredibly fresh and intriguing, however familiar the narrative may be. This production from the Stage Theatre Company has clearly had some considerable thought put into it, and the drama that unfolds is done in a manner entirely befitting for the size of the venue and the size of the stage.
Loud vocal projections are sparing, which works well in a studio space. If Yannis (Miles Le Versha), as Jokanaan is known by – this production preferring the Greek version of the name ‘John’ rather than the Hebrew – were to make his proclamations in such a way that fully justifies the complaints from Herodias (Vanessa Corradi), it really would be overkill. Herod (Neil Weatherall) raises his voice in frustration, but even he, for the most part, remains relatively calm. Some people may not take kindly to this, given the storyline and, in particular, the demand made on him by Salome (Franciska Steiner). I personally enjoyed the different slant this play took.
This, then, is a subdued version, and in a larger theatre I would probably have expected a lot more volume. Here, the repeated demand, a response to Herod granting Salome one wish in exchange for a performance of the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, is more chilling in its impact spoken as it was, than it would have been if it were shouted (or even, as I recall from another production that shall remain nameless, screeched). It’s not the only dance that Herod, and thus the audience, is treated (or, Herod’s state of mind being what it was, subjected) to. While one or two of them were arguably superfluous, it is too churlish to dismiss them – they were great fun to watch and in keeping with the storyline.
Nick Pelas’ adaptation is very faithful to Wilde’s original script while stamping its own authority on this oft-performed drama. A contemporary feel bookends the show, though I remain unsure about the epilogue, adding an additional scene after the famous “Kill that woman!” line that usually marks the end. Whilst mildly amusing, it didn’t seem to add anything meaningful, and, to be blunt, could be entirely cut without affecting the audience’s understanding of what went on.
On the other hand, I strongly believe that it should be possible for someone who has never encountered the material in a theatrical production before to walk in, not knowing anything about it, and – assuming they have stayed to the end – come out without being totally bamboozled as to what it was about. I therefore wholeheartedly welcome an additional explanatory background note, delivered by voiceover, putting the show in context. It was brief, it was informative, and it meant not having to think about ‘what, where and when’, as this had already been established.
Briskly paced, the occasional line needed a tighter delivery, and I suspect that will naturally follow as the cast settle into their roles as the run progresses. This production has a lot going for it, though, even at this stage. It’s all there – the exploration of the human form as a spectacle, the power struggles between characters, the consequences of making rash promises in the heat of the moment. A fascinating and delightfully discerning production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“SALOME” by Oscar Wilde
“ Salomé, Salomé, dance for me. I pray thee dance for me “
At King Herod’s palace, the young captain Narraboth admires the beautiful princess Salome, who sits at the banquet table with her stepfather….
What follows is a feast of bloodlust, eroticism and total decadence culminating in the most famous dance and beheading in history
Stage Theatre Company Presents Salome by Wilde
PERFORMANCES: Tuesday – Sunday (7.30 p.m.)
TICKETS: £13 (On Sale Now)
BOX OFFICE: 020 8932 4747
On from 17th October to 29th October 2017 (No performance 23rd October)