Banned for its depiction of biblical characters, Oscar Wilde’s Salome no longer shocks with its over-abundance of metaphor and imagery. This Lazarus Theatre production works hard to bring the play to life but shows too much awe of the script, attempting to give portent to each line. With all the repetition, the flow suffers. It also makes the evening slow in the first half. Speed it up – we would appreciate more urgency in delivery. Ricky Dukes could have introduced more movement to the piece to give variety to his static direction. The production really comes to life in the final scene. It is powerful to have Jokanaan’s whole body, not just his head, brought centre stage for Salome's enjoyment.
The simple staging works well, with beautiful lighting throughout. They need to be careful with balloon placement, as my view of Herod seated was blocked for a lengthy scene in the second half by a golden balloon down centre. Will Thompson has designed a powerful score which throbs through the evening.
Jamie O'Neill portrays Herod's disintegration carefully, showing us his unravelling towards madness as the ghost of the captain visits him, echoing Macbeth.
As the object of his desire, Bailey Pilbeam makes a striking Salome. This gender change is effective, though his dance lacked eroticism in my view.
Annemarie Anang brings a subtle power to Herodias. Her comedy moments lightened the mood, giving relief from the sombre tone provided by her fellow actors.
Jamal Renaldo makes the most of an unforgiving part as Jokanaan. Speeches which make little sense and no interaction with the other characters give us little to enjoy, yet he makes the prophet impressive.
In the other parts, I felt the actors took their words all too seriously, but this is a weakness in the writing, which could have been speeded through.
The opening scene with the prophet slowly crossing the stage and the climax prove that Dukes can deliver powerful visuals, I wish he had continued that imagination throughout the piece. Oscar Wilde’s reputation is all that maintains Salome in the repertoire. Credit to Lazarus Theatre for daring to present such a flawed play.