It was written by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) to be performed as a one-act play, so it’s a curious choice for Lazarus Theatre Company to stretch it out to two acts. Perhaps it’s a damning indictment on the attention span of modern audiences. But there are ways of keeping the running time down – I’ve seen hour-long versions of the story, and as the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Sunset Boulevard demonstrates, it’s possible to get the salient points of Salomé across in a single musical number.
There’s a fair amount of repetition in this version, and the number of times the word ‘like’ was said felt far more than the eighty-three occurrences that appear in the Wikisource text of the play. Following ever-increasingly absurd comparisons with the moon with anything from strange looks to mad and drunken women, Herodias (Annemarie Anang) has it right when she declares that “the moon is like the moon!” In this production, Salomé (Bailey Pilbeam) is a prince rather than a princess, and the promotional poster for the show doesn’t lie – it’s not so much the dance of the seven veils as the removal of seven items of clothing, albeit to a piece of music from the Richard Strauss opera version of the story. Herod’s (Jamie O’Neill) response to the stripping off (for that is what it is), is, um, a tad unorthodox.
Some minor alterations to the text make the play a little punchier, or at least somewhat more contemporary, but are sometimes at odds with the rather flowery vocabulary that Oscar Wilde deploys throughout his play. Herod’s frustration is palpable, but it’s more nuanced and more vivid when he elaborately attempts to dissuade Salomé from insisting on a particular request to be fulfilled, than when he throws the toys out of the proverbial pram by blurting out: “For f–k’s sake!”
Given the resetting of the show to 2019 – O’Neill’s Herod is not unlike a certain political leader who makes grandiose claims and decries ‘fake news’ – it’s a little surprising that the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ of the Wilde text are largely retained. But the use of mobile telephony or other varieties of digital technology could have been harnessed, for instance when demands are made by King Herod or Prince Salomé.
This is the first production of I’ve come across of Salomé where, technically, the demand for the head of Jokanaan (Jamal Renaldo) on a silver platter or silver tray isn’t (strictly speaking) adhered to. There were at least a couple of characters who really weren’t given much to do, and I wonder if it would have made much difference if the cast were reduced by one or two. The set is kept relatively simple, and bizarrely there were a large number of balloons – too many to ignore. I couldn’t work out what the significance of the balloons was, suffice to say there was no re-enactment of the motion picture Up.
Proceedings verge on melodrama on multiple occasions, and the interval seems to come at an odd time in the plot, if only because the characters resume their positions for the start of the second act to re-enact exactly just what went on. Does the audience really require a reminder after twenty minutes? It does well, though, to present a different set of dynamics to this oft-performed play by exploring the results of changing the gender of the title character. But the relative brevity of the second act essentially made the interval superfluous, and the seemingly Brechtian approach meant that engagement with the story and its characters was more difficult than it needed to be.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Oscar Wilde’s scintillating Salomé hits the stage in this all new LGBTQ focussed production.
“Salomé, Salomé, dance for me. I pray thee dance for me…”
King Herod asks Salomé to dance for him… this request leads to The Dance of the Seven Veils and one of the most shocking, thrilling and scandalous climaxes ever seen on stage.
Originally banned in Britain, Wilde’s outrageously provocative Salomé comes to the stage in this exotic and exquisite new production and features as the finale to our second year-long residency at The Greenwich Theatre.
Salomé is suitable for ages 16 plus and contains full male nudity and scenes of a sexual and violent nature.
Making his Lazarus Debut Bailey Pilbeam takes on the title role of Salomé. Returning to the company; Jamie O’Neill (Edward II, Revenger’s Tragedy) plays the role of King Herod and David Clayton (Edward II, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest) plays the role of Guard to Herodias. Also making their Lazarus Debuts; Annemarie Anang plays the role of Herodias. Jamal Renaldo plays the role of Jokannaan, Michael Howlett plays the role of The Young Soldier. Hattie Wilkinson plays the role of The Official. Jordan Paris plays the role of First Solider and Cal Chapman plays Second Soldier.
at The Greenwich Theatre.
By Oscar Wilde
Tuesday 15th – 25th May, 2019