Director: Yaël Farber
Writer: Yaël Farber
Cast: Isabella Nefar, Olwen Fouéré, Ramzi Choukair, Lloyd Hutchinson, Philip Arditti, Paul Chahidi, Theo TJ Lowe, Raad Rawi, Aidan Kelly, Shahar Isaac, Uriel Emil
Seen on: 22.6.2017

In a Roman occupied Judea, Salomé (Isabella Nefar) doesn’t have much room to maneuver, despite the privileged position that comes with being the niece/step daughter of Herod (Paul Chahidi), who is a little too invested in her for comfort. When Iokanaan (Ramzi Choukair), aka John the Baptist, is arrested, Salomé is intrigued and seeks to talk to him.

The play Salomé is an attempt to retell the story of Salomé from a less misogynist perspective. It’s an attempt that I appreciated in many ways, even if not everything about it works as well as it should.

So far, Salomé has mostly been depicted as a sex-starved hysterical woman who had John killed only because he didn’t want to sleep with her. Not in this play: here, Salomé becomes a political agent, trying to solve two problems with her demand of his head: one, to put him out of the misery of his inprisonment that includes torture; and two, to spark the revolution by turning him into a martyr, something she knows her uncle and his ilk were trying to avoid.

It’s a good thing to reframe this story and I did like that framing. Farber wrote the play himself, and he works very well with the character – and her older edition the Nameless (Olwen Fouéré). I also liked his language very much for the most part, although there were certainly some points where the dialogues went from theatric-lyrical to ridiculous (“Between your thighs are secret ravines that will quench my thirst,” pants Herod).

Isabella Nefar is magnetic on stage and you can barely take your eyes off her. And yet, she’s never sexualized by the play: even when Herod sexualizes her, it’s the uncomfortable, boundaries overstepping abuse it’s supposed to be. And Olwen Fouéré is a great character counterpart, a forceful presence that can’t be shaken.

The stage design was also beautiful. It uses empty spaces and missing scenery a lot, so the few set pieces it does use – a ladder, tapestry, sand – become absolutely haptic in their presence.

So, there was a lot I liked about the play, even when it doesn’t achieve everything it sets out to do. In this case, trying at all gets quite a few brownie points.

Summarizing: Worth seeing.

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