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Salome By Oscar Wilde
Published on Friday, 17 August 2012
4

4 stars

Zoo Southside (venue website)
Theatre
4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 22, 24, 26 Aug, 2:00pm-3:00pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

I wouldn’t suggest seeing any interpretation of Salome if you’re squeamish. Oscar Wilde has never shied away from confronting social taboos, but if seeing a woman lust over a severed head might just tip you over the edge, then I would warn you to stay away. Salome is a strange play at the best of times, and Time Zone Theatre manages to make it even stranger. Perhaps it was because I was in a wacky mood, but I thoroughly appreciated their production for what it was – a jarring, contemporary version of a classic tragedy.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into Zoo Southside’s Studio venue was that three members of the cast have obviously raided Phil Collins’ cupboard… because they’re wearing what can only be described as gorilla gloves. I decided to keep an open mind. And remarkably, for such a modern take, they stick like glue to the original script, despite all the necessary simplifications that an hour’s time limit commands.

Salome is a powerful presence, and I give full credit to Jenna Verdicchio for an absolutely committed and captivating performance.  She went from seductive to despairing to absolutely mad in the space of minutes, and made it look so incredibly believable. On the technical side, their use of a mirrored set enhanced the lighting and atmosphere, and also addressed that important motif of “looking” in the non-verbal sense. The music, also, was tantalisingly suspenseful without being distracting.

Oscar Wilde is perhaps one of the wittiest playwrights in history. His control of language is astonishing – even when his works are translated from French – and despite the fact that Salome is ultimately a tragedy, I thought that there were some missed opportunities to capitalise on the occasional witticism. For me, the play took itself a tad too seriously. And really, when you morosely deliver a line mocking religion in a play based on a biblical tragedy, you should perhaps spot that your production needs to lighten up a little.

Having said that, it was a strong performance from a very talented group of people. If you’re a fan of the original work, you’ll enjoy this interpretation immensely – particularly for Verdicchio’s no-holds-barred performance as a lust-driven madwoman. If, on the other hand, this is your first experience with the play, get ready for some cringing. I could easily pick out the squeamish first-timers in the audience… and watching them squirm was almost as entertaining as the play itself.

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