The show opens in the 1930s on King Herod’s birthday banquet.
“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…”
Salome is a re-interpretation of a story from the Bible that leads to John the Baptist’s death. Salome dances for Herod and is granted anything her heart desires. Unfortunately for Herod, Salome’s wish is for the head of the prophet, Jokanaan, who had earlier rejected her, on a silver platter.
Unsurprisingly, Oscar Wilde’s one-act play was initially banned, perhaps because of its decadence or perhaps because its religious material would have been considered blasphemous. Theatre Lab’s production focuses mostly on the drama of the story and almost entirely on the characters’ vices. There’s a lot of focus on movement throughout with one particularly sensual dance performed by Salome for Herod.
The Victorian Hoxton Hall is the perfect setting for this play and with the audience placed around the banquet table it is almost impossible not to be completely mesmerised by the action. The play follows Salome’s transition from an innocent child in a white tutu into a merciless seductress completely draped in red, perhaps best demonstrated through the dance of the seven veils she performs for her step-father/uncle (you know how complicated these family trees can get).
The highlight of the show is a double act between Herod (Konstantinos Kavakiotis) and his servant (Tobias Deacon) as they try to promise a multitude of gifts to Salome in place of the head on a silver platter she’s so set upon. It provides some much needed lightness and comedy to such a dark play.
Denise Moreno moves beautifully with lots of flow between seductive dance movements – dancing is definitely her strength. She seems to portray Salome’s innocence quite well and is childlike throughout the performance even once she gets what she’s after.
Almost all the music is provided by Annabelle Brown. Brown shows off her talents through several instruments but perhaps most impressively by the range of her voice. She sets the ambience from the party mood with the song In the Mood to Herod’s paranoia with some unpleasant screeching noises as he starts his decent to madness.
Theate Lab, an international company, has revisited Salome numerous times since 2012 both here and overseas. The setting is perfect for this kind of decadence but it seems that by the end of the play decadence is replaced by sheer horror.
Salome plays Hoxton Hall until February 11.
Photo: Yiannis Katsaris