Shining Lights - Salome
At New Greenham Arts, 24th and 25th January 2003.
This is the Newbury Weekly News review.
Trial by dialogue
'SALOME', performed by Shining Lights at New Greenham Arts, on Friday, January 24, and Saturday, January 25
Oscar Wilde's 'Salome' is notoriously difficult to bring off successfully. Although defined as a play, like Ibsen's 'Peer Gynt' it is written as a poetic dialogue. In it, Wilde uses a heightened style of language that intentionally avoids anything approaching natural speech and also pays little heed to any staging conventions. In other words, he was experimenting. He even wrote it in French and left it to Lord Alfred Douglas to translate.
In this production by Shining Lights, director Pete Watt wisely adopted a stylised approach. All the characters were on stage throughout; when not actually required they emphasised the decadence of the court by sitting at tables slowly and unobtrusively miming eating and drinking. A combination of formal modern costume and distressed make-up further enhanced the air of decay.
Unfortunately there seemed to be no overall decision made on how to deal with artificiality of the script. A range of techniques was used, some more successful than others. It was enterprising of a youth group to take on a challenge like this but they needed a firm directorial hand to guide delivery and achieve cohesion.
Most of the smaller characters delivered their lines in a detached, unemotional, way that generally worked. The two guards (Jade Buller and Caroline Gibson), the Cappodocian (Daniel Sherratt) and especially the Syrian Captain (Holly Sainsbury) used this style to particular effect. In contrast, Salome (Sophie Hicklin) and Herodias (Beccy Chaplin) were much more naturalistic and this was a mistake. Granted, they have more emotional demands made on them, but amid the dreamlike atmosphere being conjured their interpretation jarred. Salome's seduction of Iokannan and, even more, her later interaction with his severed head, needed to be much more erotic and mesmerising, while Herodias lost regal dignity.
At the other extreme, the most stylistic interpretation of all came from Herod (Joe Thorpe) and as a result he commanded the stage. Using enhanced diction without losing any nuance of meaning and underpinning this with a precise manner of movement he had the necessary confidence and élan to overplay by exactly the right amount for a winning performance.