National Theatre Live: SALOME

by Lynn on July 2, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

National Theatre Live


Originally broadcast June 22. Check listings for encore presentation.
A new play by Yaël Farber
Directed by Yaël Farber
Designed by Susan Hilferty
Lighting by Tim Lutkin
Music and sound by Adam Cork
Cast: Philip Arditti
Paul Chahidi
Ramzi Choukair
Uriel Emil
Olwen Fouéré
Lloyd Hutchinson
Shahar Isaac
Aidan Kelly
Yasmin Levy
Theo T J. Lowe
Isabella Nefar
Lubana Al Quntar
Raad Rawi

Ponderous, often incomprehensible, declarative acting, a huge sweep of vision but so what?

From the program: ‘From her prison beneath the walls of her city, Nameless recounts what led her to call for the beheading of Iokanaan (John the Baptist) in her youth. Her story shows how Rome’s suppression of the people and religion of Judea acted as a catalyst in her transformation from subjugated young girl to the woman who came to be known as Salomé.’

Yaël Farber has taken various versions of the Salomé story and fashioned this version. The Roman’s were keeping John the Baptist alive so he would not become a martyr in death. When John the Baptist met Salomé he realized she was the saviour of her people.

Salomé was lusted after by Herod. She was his step daughter. He wanted her. She was repelled. He still wanted her. The only line of his that will ring out into the history of ridiculous lines is this one: ‘Your saliva is the secret source of my life.’ At first I thought he said it was the ‘secret sauce’ of his life, but was told it’s ‘secret source.’ Either way it is the most ridiculous line in a ponderous play and production.

Yaël Farber has done wonderful work both in her writing and directing: Meiss Julie comes readily to mind. She has a vision and sweep to her work with the most elegant directorial touches. None of that is here.

The cast is encouraged to declaim so everybody yells except for Nameless (Olwen Fouéré) to a certain extend. Isabella Nefar is a quivering, sultry Salomé who shrinks whenever Herod (Paul Chahidi) comes near her. In a certain way, Chahidi is quite good as Herod. He does put lust and saliva into his speeches and you can see the desperation to ‘have her’ that he has for Salomé. She uses this and promises to dance the Dance of the Seven Veils if he will bring her the Head of John the Baptist. That’s how she helps John the Baptist get his wish—to die. And thus be a martyr.

There’s a lot of smoky lighting. There is a constant ringing of Middle Eastern sounding music in Adam Cork’s score sung by two women. The dance is less about veils and more about pulling the curtains around the set (the dance of the seven curtains??). It would be impressive if it wasn’t silly.

Hell would be having to see this again. And I will because I have a ticket to see it at the National Theatre this week. I want to see the whole of it, not obstructed by camera work. Sigh.

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