Salome is beautifully staged with an amazing multinational cast. The story is transferred from biblical times to the bohemian atmosphere of 1930’s Europe, with music and costumes from that period.
It all begins at King Herod’s birthday feast. The table, which runs the length of the auditorium, is covered with the best foods and wine. On the stage, located above the table, a young woman dressed in a traditional ballet dancer’s costume poses unmoving, cradling a red piano accordion. This talented young woman sings an accompaniment to the story as it progresses.
On the other end of the table, the beautiful young Salomé lies seemingly asleep on the table. They are waiting for the party to begin. The party starts well with Herod in particular, determined to have a good time and to include us, the audience, in the jollities.
In the middle of the fun the disembodied voice of prophet Jokanaan (John the Baptist), is heard shouting dire warnings from the cistern in which he is imprisoned. This is the same cistern in which Herod had imprisoned his own brother (Salomé’s father) for twelve years before finally having him assassinated when he refused to cooperate and die naturally.
After Salomé’s father’s assassination, Herod had married his late brother’s hard hearted wife, Herodius, and thereby inherited a beautiful, erotic, spoiled, virgin step daughter, Salomé, after whom he openly lusts, much to her mother’s chagrin.
Herodius, as well as being jealous about her husband’s predilection for his young, nubile niece, is being given a hard time by Jokanaan who’s distant voice insults her at every opportunity.
When alone, Salomé tells the Syrian Captain of the Guard, that she wishes to speak to the mysterious Jokanaan and she persuades the Syrian, who secretly loves her, to bring the prophet out.
The prophet emerges, and Salomé looks at him and she is fascinated by him, his voice and his lean body. She desperately desires to make love with Jokanaan but he spurns her advances.
Herod asks Salomé to dance for him. He begs her, swearing to give her whatever she wishes. Salomé finally agrees to dance for him. The dance is breathtakingly erotic.
The story ends in a bloody climax, though the audience is thankfully spared from viewing any blood and gore.
Spanish/American actress Denise Moreno plays the youthful Salomé, whose character oscillates between the innocent ingenue and the dangerously spoilt child.
Konstantinos Kavakiotis the Greek actor plays Herod as a powerful but fearful man emasculated by his lust for Salomé, the beautiful child/woman.
Danish, Helen Bang who plays Herodias brilliantly, balances on a narrow line between a hard cruel woman arguing for a helpless man’s execution and a woman stretched to breaking point by her husband’s infidelity and the constant goading by the prophet.
Oscar Wilde’s writing was sensual and full of drama and wit. This play, was banned in Britain by the Lord Chamberlin’s Office for some forty years and first performed in London in 1931.
I would suggest that you go and immerse your self in this wonderful, decadent play. Listen to the exquisite music and songs and feast your eyes on the sets.
Reviewed by Graham Archer
Photo: Yiannis Katsaris
Salome plays at Hoxton Hall until 11 February 2017