'She would hang on him as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on', Act I, Scene II, Hamlet
As a one-act play exploring the dangers of transgressive desire, it is fitting that DramSoc’s production of Salomé is staged in the echoing, dimly lit tunnels of The Loco Klub. This subterranean environment evokes things hidden and supressed, but these things are brought to light by this compelling and sensual performance of Oscar Wilde’s Biblical drama. Within the delightfully claustrophobic confines of this space, one almost feels as if the audience is in the bowels of a church. This is somewhat ironic, as the play was originally banned in England (1892) for its eroticism, and sacrilegious portrayal of Biblical figures.
Although beginning slightly tentatively, the production gathered momentum as it progressed, climaxing in a scene of murderous desire and revenge. Asha Osborne-Grinter shone as the eponymous Salomé, embodying regality, sensuality, and towards the end, lunacy. Indeed, the motif of the moon -a symbol associated with both femininity and lunacy- was a subtle but frequent reminder of the danger of Salomé’s aggressive female desire throughout the play.
One of the most memorable pieces of the performance was the dance of the seven veils, beautifully choreographed by Laura Marcus. With the combination of thrumming music, crimson lighting, and fantastic use of the surrounding cast, a tangible atmosphere was evoked, causing a burning focus to be placed on Asha’s Salomé.
More generally, credit has to be given to the technical team for the excellent use of sound and lighting in this production as well. The contrast between light and shadow works beautifully with the curved, cavernous, walls, and they take full advantage of the venue’s echoing tunnels to blast the fanatical prophecies of Jokanaan through the audience.
Other standout performances include Andrew Simpson’s psychopathic Herod, whose portrayal was reminiscent of other nasty rulers, such as Game of Thrones’ Joffrey Baratheon, and Gladiator’s Emperor Commodus. Moreover, Mimi Paltridge, who seems to be making a name for herself in the student theatre community (see reviews of her performance in DramSoc and Spotlights’ Posh), presents an envious, icy, and fearless Herodias.
Despite being set in Biblical times and originally written and staged for a Victorian audience, the play still carries remarkable resonance in a modern context, as reflected by the contemporary costuming. As an audience, we are still shocked to see the unrestrained, unabashed force of Salomé’s lust for the zealous Jokanaan. Even in today’s progressive social climate, a taboo still lingers around female sexuality, but this play does nothing to mask its raw aggression and carnal desire. However, the preoccupation with female desire being dangerous is still prevalent, with the final line sending a shockwave through the audience; “Kill this woman”.
DramSoc takes a piece from one of the most controversial and masterful playwrights of our literary culture, and brings it to life with great production: strong acting, professional use of lighting and sound, and a truly unique, immersive, and exciting location. Salomé comes highly recommended – this is not a production to miss!