How far are you willing to go to get what you most desire? That’s the question at the bloody heart of Salome. And it’s a question that so fascinates Lazarus Theatre that they’re now having a third go at Oscar Wilde’s provocative 1891 tragedy based on the Biblical tale.
The second, acclaimed iteration was at Greenwich Theatre in 2019, when I also chaired a post-show Q&A. And, just two years on, it’s amazing just how different a production can be, with the company responding to the possibilities presented by the adaptable 100-seat Little at Southwark Playhouse versus the comparatively cavernous 421-seat hall at Greenwich Theatre.
As a result, artistic director Ricky Dukes, who has re-adapted and re-directed, has taken several big chops – bringing the previous cast of nine down to six, ditching the interval, losing 30-odd minutes of performance and plonking all of the action onto a traverse staging divided by a long catwalk-style dining table.
There’s also a radically different, Fantasia-themed approach to minxy Salome’s dance of the seven veils.
I discussed all of that, and the challenges of ‘running the marathon’ of putting on a classical text after 18 months of ‘no training’ care of lockdown, with members of the cast – Jamie O’Neill (who, as King Herod, is the sole company member reprising his 2019 performance), Fred Thomas (Salome), Pauline Babula (Herodias), George Ray-Turner (Guard) and Omi Mantri (Young soldier) – as well as Ricky Dukes.
To add an extra 2021 flavour to proceedings, Ricky dialled in from home, after coming down with a cold (he’s tested negative for Covid, but isn’t taking any chances).
Salome continues at London’s Southwark Playhouse until 11 September 2021.
On the panel, from left to right when all seated: adapter/director Ricky Dukes (on screen), actors George Ray-Tuner, Fred Thomas, Jamie O’Neill, Pauline Babula and Omi Mantri, and me, Terri Paddock. Event photography by Peter Jones.