Saturday, 31 August 2013

Salome, Aug 30, 2013 **

By Oscar Wilde
By Little Ones Theatre, Malthouse Helium
Tower Theatre, Malthouse, until Sept 14, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 30, 2013 
 Review also published in Herald Sun online and in print on Tues Sept 3, 2013 KH 
Paul Blenheim & Genevieve Giuffre

This cross-dressing parody of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé dilutes the controversial 1892 play with gender-bending gags and pop songs until it becomes silly rather than menacing or grotesque.

Wilde’s script is a confronting version of the biblical story about Salomé (Paul Blenheim), stepdaughter of King Herod (Alexandra Aldrich), demanding the head of the prophet, John the Baptist (Genevieve Giuffre) on a plate when he refuses her seductions.

It is impossible not to draw comparisons with Steven Berkoff’s inspired and grotesque production of Salomé that so elegantly accentuated the sexually transgressive nature of the story.

Stephen Nicolazzo’s production tries too hard to be provocative by making Salomé a pouting, bratty boy in a matador suit, and the prophet a trashy, show girl look-alike in silver lame shorts and bra.

The production lacks a balanced or cohesive directorial vision and it relies so heavily on gags, that it fails in its attempt to shift the atmosphere from broad comedy to dramatic horror in the final scene when Salomé kisses the beheaded Baptist’s dead mouth.

Most of the actors play their characters on one note, missing the full theatrical possibilities of the parody.

The welcome exception is Nick Pelomis who plays Herod’s self-indulgent wife, Herodias, with wry humour, great timing and a Marlene Dietrich-style disdain.

As John The Baptist, Giuffre looks sassy but lacks the vocal firepower for a charismatic prophet, and she plays him with a Southern US accent – presumably a feeble, jokey reference to Southern Baptists’ hellfire and brimstone sermons.

Costuming Giuffre in tacky silver eliminates any sense of the prophet’s obsessive, religious prudery and virginality so that the entire point of the seduction is lost.

Blenheim’s two-dimensional Salomé spends more time simpering than seducing, the gender swap leaves the relationship between The Baptist and Salomé tepid rather than searing, and Blenheim lacks the comic timing and delivery for this style.

Aldrich trivialises the complex, manic delusions of Herod, portraying him as a babbling idiot and delivering his poetic speeches so fast that they are almost incomprehensible.

The tragedy of the young Syrian’s death is lost in the shallow and repetitive, homosexual titillation between the servants (Peter Paltos, Zoe Boesen).

Tom Dent’s depiction of the Executioner as a lisping drag queen wearing only lacy knickers and fur coat, is the best example of the reductive silliness of a production that ends up looking like The Village People performing Oscar Wilde.

By Kate Herbert

No comments:

Post a Comment