Salome

Mon 6th – Sat 18th August 2012

reviews

Sara Pridgeon

at 07:16 on 11th Aug 2012

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Oscar Wilde’s 'Salome' is not an easy play to pull off, but Benedict Weaver-Hincks and Felix Stevenson of Kronos Productions deliver a competent interpretation. The story of Salome’s devastating and violent passion is a difficult one to grapple with, a task which is not helped by Wilde’s trance-like language. With the prevalence of repetition in the play, both in the lines themselves and in variations on the same themes, a production of 'Salome' needs an extra spark to really ignite the language and enliven the stage. This is something that Kronos Productions’ 'Salome' still needs to find.

The performances are solid, and I warmed to Stevenson’s portrayal of Herod as a childish, spoiled king. Cecily Money-Coutts is well cast as Herodias, although more dynamism and a greater range of expression – scorn seems to be her default setting – would improve her character. I especially enjoyed the performances of the supporting cast, the soldiers and servants; to me, they are the most convincing of the show. Grace Cheatle’s Salome is strong for most of the production; her final scene needs more energy, more dangerous passion to reach its full potential. Her dance for Herod, a pivotal moment in the play, is also slightly disappointing and fails to match the intensity of its backing music.

In general, though, the actors deal well Wilde’s difficult words, which are juxtaposed with the modern costumes. While I can understand the inclination to prove that Salome is relevant for the 21st century, I am ambivalent about the decision to set the show in the modern Middle East. The use of guns instead of swords makes the death scenes more easily realistic, but other than this I do not see any strong reason for the setting. It is an essentially neutral choice, one that neither adds to nor detracts from the show. Difficult sightlines are an unfortunate consequence of the venue, which is especially a shame because the cast make good use of their small, simple stage.

This is a solid production of a difficult play, and provides a good opportunity to see a once controversial and very different example of Wilde’s theatre. While the weaker moments of the show are acceptable as they are, the cast has the potential to do more, to reach for the hazy yet electrifying show that Salome can be.

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April Elisabeth Pierce

at 09:59 on 11th Aug 2012

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Set in a modern Middle Eastern military base, Kronos Production’s interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s once-controversial play 'Salome' is a convincing rendition of an intense story. Although the camouflage pants and handguns seem somewhat superfluous, the stage’s lush carpets and goblets of wine help usher the audience into Wilde’s imagination. 'Salome' depicts the Biblical femme fatale, a woman infamous for her precipitation of John the Baptist’s execution. With scenes that portray seduction, desire, prophecy and murder, the script could not be more scintillating.

The acting was faultless, save for a few minor difficulties. Salome (Grace Cheatle) was young and nymphlike, but lacked the deviousness and explicit sensuality the part demands. Herodias (Cecily Money-Coutts) was striking, stately and proud, and would have been the perfect foil for her daughter, had Salome been invested with the lustiness and agency of a full-blooded anti-heroine. Of the cast, it was unquestionably Herod (Felix Stevenson) who stole the show. His childish and mercurial temperament was spiced up with emotive volatility.

Although Wilde’s original play was so controversial it was banned, this interpretation felt a little lacklustre. Better use could have been made of contrasting motifs, which are ripe for the picking in this piece. For instance, juxtapositions between desire and chastity, divine vision and hedonism, or innocence and experience could have been more clearly represented. Instead the staging, character development and costumes were streamlined into a single vision. Moments of shock did not seem to affect the audience deeply; at one point a gunshot elicited giggles rather than gasps. The climactic dance before Herod was somewhat frigid, and unfortunately the plausibility of the entire story relies on precisely this scene.

There were undoubtedly highlights in this performance. Fantastic use of lighting meant evocative gestures towards the moon were well received. Voice projection and off-stage presence to signify prophetic mysteries also worked well. Overall, though, this version of 'Salome' was less enticing than it might have been, with a few adjustments. Happily, all the crucial elements of a successful production were present, and the performance was still compelling.

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