by Oscar Wilde adapted by Jamie Lloyd.
Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue NW3 3EU To 17 July 2010.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Sat 4pm.
Audio-described 17 July 4pm.
Captioned (+ post-show discussion with speech-to-text) 13 July.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 June.
Vivid and perverse.
All the world’s a cesspit and Herod’s a wanker who uses Salome’s dance as an opportunity for sexual self-stimulation. Generally, though, power and instant gratification drive this unpredictable ruler. If much gratification’s to be found on this earth-covered terrain, where a variety of nationals are ironed-out as camouflage-sporting officers in Herod’s army.
Jamie Lloyd’s production is both vivid and perverse. The regional accents and rough-cut character behaviour hardly go with Oscar Wilde’s luxuriant dialogue. Good actors try well but the gap’s too wide. Rainbow-coloured language receives a black-and-white staging.
Yet there’s more than enough excess. Batteries of light punch moods home, John the Baptist (Iokanaan)’s body when dragged by chains from its pit gleams with oil or dirty water. Madness inhabits everyone; it’s unclear whether Iokanaan simply rejects the sensuality around, or whether denial is his way of indulgence.
Such visceral sensations clothing a play, more or less aptly, has become Headlong Theatre’s style. It’s certainly not vapid. In one of the two performances that really count, Con O’Neill finds variety and a pleading weakness that make Herod’s demands seem childish. If absolute power absolutely corrupts, this is one way it does so. As nobody denies the Tetrarch anything, then the Tetrarch will demand everything. O’Neill’s Herod lives near several dangerous edges at once, unaware of his own weakness.
And Zawe Ashton shows Salome’s the same. She denies Herod her dancing, but wants everything else from others, becoming petulant, with a surliness that shows in her defiantly-wielded psychedelic ghetto-blaster, multi-coloured wig and angular movement for the dance.
Which she agrees to only to obtain Iokanaan’s head, rejoicing in the final moment as she holds it, severed, in her hands. When it was on his shoulders her litanies of desire and hate did not touch him. The girl who had everything could not get this, so wanted it even more.
It’s vividly intelligent – movements made to cover embarrassment craftily introduce the idea of dance – yet the relentlessly urgent excess, incessant insolence and abrasive quality seem too easy, and limited, a way of making an impression. Simultaneously, somehow, bright yet monochrome.
Herod: Con O’Neill.
Salome: Xawe Ashton.
Page of Herodias: Richard Cant.
Naaman: Vyelle Croom.
Young Syrian: Sam Donovan.
Herodias: Jaye Griffiths.
The Cappadocian: Nitzin Sharron.
The Nazarene: Tom Byam Shaw.
Iokanaan: Seunj Shote.
The Jew: Tim Steed.
Director: Jamie Lloyd.
Designer/Costume: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound/Colmposerds: Ben and Max Ringham.
Movement: Ann Yee.
Associate director: Sam Yates.