Salome, Hoxton Hall, review: ‘Compelling Wildean tragedy is visually dazzling’

Salome. Picture: Yiannis Katsaris

Salome. Picture: Yiannis Katsaris - Credit: Archant

Oscar Wilde’s 1891 tragedy has become the subject of a 1930s makeover in a bold production by Anastasia Revi

It is strange that a lot of the most timeless stories are those that are painted in the darkest of shades. This is true too of Oscar Wilde’s 1891 tragedy, Salome, which has become the subject of a 1930s makeover in a bold production by Anastasia Revi.

The story centres on a banquet and an intoxicated King Herod (Konstantinos Kavakiotis) who is celebrating his birthday. Surrounded by staff, Herod’s groping hands reach out for his wife Queen Herodias (Helen Bang).

The revelry is awkward. Meanwhile, omens spoken by Iokannan (A Prophet, played by Matthew Wade) to Herod’s enigmatic step daughter Salome (Denise Moreno) spell out danger of what might be to come.

As the evening wears on, and in front of his aghast wife, Herod demands that Salome dance for him. In exchange, he promises her anything she so desires.

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Revi has imbued her production with a visually dazzling turn of hand. She is assisted by energetic performances that ensure compelling viewing.

The centrepiece dance in itself is a wonderfully arresting delight; Salome contorting with a choreography that is equal parts suggestive, erotic and tribal in the presence of a wild eyed, inebriated and admiring stepfather. It makes for uncomfortable and yet riveting drama.

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The rickety, threadbare production values on offer at the Hoxton Hall might be off-putting to some, but the story packs enough punch to overcome it.

The real problem is the venue. For all of its music hall charm, it is an awkward shape. Too compact to work seamlessly, it is certainly not suited to having the audience envelop proceedings.

Whilst Salome doesn’t contain textbook Wildean wit, it does contain a master’s grasp of tragedy that aggrandises language and story in a traditional fashion and this is ably evoked here.

It is one that prompts complimentary comparison with Lorca’s Blood Wedding or Strindberg’s Miss Julie.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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