By Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde’s Salome is produced by Rupert Goold’s company Headlong – but not directed by him. Nevertheless it has the usual show pony tricks I associate with his work. Visually it’s a very striking production. The stage is high above the stalls and features trapdoors mud and water.
In essence Salome is all about beheading John the Baptist, the dance of the 7 veils and women destroying (male controlled) religion. It’s set in a time when there are many competing religions and Christianity is just another crazy sect vying for public recognition. However, there’s something about the Christian prophet incarcerated in Herod’s gaol that sets Salome off.
The play is transgressive on many levels: the fact that Herod has married his dead brother’s wife, that he lusts after his step-daughter Salome as well as – in this production and presumably in deference to Wilde’s sexuality – engaging sexually with his (male) entourage – much to their disgust. Royalty is presented as corrupt and venal, childish and vindictive – a suitable comment on those in power in any age perhaps. There’s a strong cast with Con O’Neil’s Herod and Jaye Griffith’s Herodias outstanding. Zawe Ashton excels as an erotically charged spoilt wild child in the role of Salome.