Get set for Yaël Farber’s unconventional retelling of a biblical legend. It’s a visual feast
There are moments in Salomé
where it feels as if you’re gazing at a Renaissance tableaux rather than watching a live performance. The epic scale of the visuals imprint static images in your mind; picture a Last Supper-style scene where the cast poses dramatically around a long wooden table – the result is visually arresting. However, it doesn’t afford enough warmth or energy to the action that happens around it.
The story of Salomé is perhaps one of the most retold in history. Playwright and director Yaël Farber (of Les Blancs) sets out to give her own version, no longer portraying the eponymous heroine as a lustful harpy, but instead as a revolutionary. Abused by her step-father Herod (played brilliantly by Paul Chahidi), Salomé is a symbol of her ravaged city of Jerusalem. We hear about the course of her life through Nameless (Olwen Fouéré), an older version of herself looking back. In this retelling, Salomé so-called (Isabella Nefar) makes a clear decision to ask for Iokanaan’s (Ramzi Choukair) head, or to us John the Baptist’s, to ignite political action, instead of being spurred on by sexual motives.
The concept is interesting, but it doesn’t quite pack the punch it sets out to. I wanted the feminist retelling to show Salomé as someone I could relate to, someone who made a bold and brave decision for her country. However, we don’t actually learn much more about her, and both the script and the performances present her as too much of a symbol and not enough as a person. Despite this, props must go to Susan Hilferty’s design. Effects include what appears to be tonnes of sand cascading from the ceiling, actors gliding round on a rotating stage and huge curtains billowing dramatically – it really is a beauty to watch.
We like the intimate Gielgud Room for bespoke packages which include pre- and post-show champagne, canapés or fine dining
Eat & drink House
, Oxo Restaurant
Photos Johan Persson