Home » Reviews » Drama » Salome, Barons Court Theatre – Review
Credit: Lisa Wright
Credit: Lisa Wright

Salome, Barons Court Theatre – Review

Pros: It’s short.

Cons: Everything else.

Pros: It’s short. Cons: Everything else. The plot of Oscar Wilde’s Salome is fairly well known, which is unsurprising given that it's literally biblical: a princess (from whom the play takes its name) demands that her stepfather, King Herod II, deliver her the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter as a reward for performing the Dance of the Seven Veils. It’s a classic, and rightly so. However, while I’ve seen some excellent work at the Barons Court Theatre, this absolutely does not count among it. For reasons detailed below, Stage Theatre Company’s miserable revival of Salome…

Summary

Rating

Very Poor

This is a dire piece of underrehearsed theatre which, in its attempt to condense Oscar Wilde’s classic, succeeds only in butchering it.

User Rating: 2.21 ( 7 votes)

The plot of Oscar Wilde’s Salome is fairly well known, which is unsurprising given that it’s literally biblical: a princess (from whom the play takes its name) demands that her stepfather, King Herod II, deliver her the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter as a reward for performing the Dance of the Seven Veils. It’s a classic, and rightly so. However, while I’ve seen some excellent work at the Barons Court Theatre, this absolutely does not count among it. For reasons detailed below, Stage Theatre Company’s miserable revival of Salome is without doubt the worst production of any play that I have ever seen (and, I sincerely hope, will ever see).

The opening of the show, like so much of what follows, is farcical. Two actors shuffle onto the stage, mumble some nonsensical garbage, then shuffle off again. The stage is left bare (for the last time), with the lights still up. Following an awkward silence, a prerecorded voice delivers some plot exposition while the audience eye each other awkwardly from each side of the theatre. Then, at last, there’s a lighting change, and enter… Salome? No, it’s just a partially-veiled woman who engages in a five-minute (not an exaggeration) unchoreographed dance routine, struggling to maintain the Colgate grin on her face as she gradually runs out of breath.

The tone had been set for the rest of the evening. What followed was one of the longer hours of my life – at one point, even the director, Nick Pelas, who’d planted himself in the front row, conspicuously checked his watch. Looking at the substantial cast list, I wondered how they would be manoeuvred around the tiny space. As it turns out, they weren’t; for the majority of the show, the stage is crowded by ten actors standing around like lemons and unconvincingly saying lines, often at the wrong time and usually over the top of each other. There are some other inept directorial choices, such as fully revealing the severed head of John the Baptist in spite of obvious budget constraints. ‘Is this the bitter taste of love, or blood?’ Salome whimpers, kissing it. ‘No; it’s polystyrene.’

However, this isn’t just an extremely poor revival of Salome, but to my mind an offensive one. There is something genuinely unpleasant about watching a group of scantily clad actresses – many of whom barely feature in the rest of the play – give King Herod (played here by Neil Weatherall who, if nothing else, can shout very loudly) a private striptease one after another. It was facile, sexist, and inadvertently sinister. It was also totally unnecessary. By the time it came for Salome (Franciska Steiner) to take the floor, I found myself mirroring the majority of the cast on the stage: grimacing at the floor and waiting for it all to be over. She dances (not very skilfully but it is undoubtedly dancing) for an eternity. Any attempts to convey the sensuality and eroticism of Wilde’s script succeed only in being seedy and demeaning. It feels like a tacky peep show in the basement of a pub – appropriate, perhaps, given the theatre’s location beneath the excellent Curtains Up.

By the end of this lesson in how not to stage a play, John the Baptist’s head isn’t the only thing that’s rolling; I’m sure Oscar Wilde is too, in his grave. I usually hate it when a cast applauds its audience during a curtain call, but, in this instance, I think we deserved it after sitting through this catastrophe.

Author: Oscar Wilde (adapted by Nick Pelas)
Director: Nick Pelas
Producer: Stage Theatre Company
Booking Until: 29 October 2017
Box Office: 020 8932 4747
Booking Information: Email londontheatre@gmail.com with details of performance and number of tickets required.

About Hugo Nicholson

Hugo Nicholson
Hugo is an actor, producer and competitive stone skimmer from County Durham. A highlight of his career post-university was working as a scarer in the basement Madame Tussauds, where his ghoulishness was such that he was more than once struck hard in the face by tourists, and forced to call an emergency stop. He now spends his time above ground, watching theatre and often writing about it.
  • Nick Pelas

    No need to be so nasty and unpleasant dear friend I have put on show at my own expense and do not deserve such a beating. Constructive criticism is far better than destructive .You had nothing to suggest or perhaps propose that could have improved
    what you say is the worse play you have ever seen in your life ,is it perhaps because the play is directed by a second generation immigrant and the cast for the most part are also from other parts of the world .I am afraid in UK today theatre at fringe level is not just produced directed and acted by the white middle class .As for the audience they loved it and so did a critic who gave it 4 strars. Mind you be had a foreign sounding surname which perhaps speaks volumes .in effect your review says more about you than my play .Now what was the name of that tourist at madam taussauds?

    • Thank you for your response to Hugo’s review of Salome. I can assure you that none of our reviewers gives a poor review lightly. We all understand the passion, commitment and investment that goes into mounting a theatre production on any scale. That said, we can’t treat a production differently simply because it is self-funded.

      Likewise, it is not necessarily our job to provide guidance to theatremakers, and I think that suggestions were implicit in many of Hugo’s criticisms on lighting, rehearsal and staging.

      Moving to your comments on race and class I must say that I see absolutely nothing in the review to suggest that either of those factors were at play here, and I think your 4 star reviewer might take exception to the idea that his favourable review had anything to do with his ethnic origin. Your suggestion that a poor review might have been motivated by a preference for white middle class theatre is offensive and demeans the efforts, which Everything Theatre supports in principle and in practice, to build a more inclusive theatre.

      Though he has no obligation to do so, Hugo has said that he would be willing to discuss his comments with you, and if you would like to take him up on that offer then please send us an email.

      Team ET

      • Andrew Slade

        I was at the same performance as Hugo, and agree totally with his comments. As a professional director, should Nick wish to contact me I would happily talk him through some suggestions, or indeed come and speak with his cast.

        • Nick Pelas

          Hi Andrew I did e mail the site and invited Hugo to a Q and A debate. I got no reply .Perhaps he never recieved it .Please tell me when you like to come .Tonight short notice .Tomorrow off but let me know between Tuesday to Sunday when you can come .You welcome pre show or post show .I await your reply .Many thanks

          • Dear Nick,
            We have now replied to your email. All emails come to the central inbox rather than to individual reviewers, so any responsibility for a slow response lies with Team ET rather than with Hugo.
            Team ET

  • Nick Pelas

    I did respond at great length to what I can only describe as a troll but it seems to have been removed ,once again I thank Hugh for his comments and hope he is pleased with himself .

  • Lexi Wolfe

    I have to wade in at this point, as someone who saw the show the same night, and even said Hi to Hugo on our way out. I also reviewed this on RemoteGoat as the official reviewer.

    I do not think Hugo is in any way being unpleasant or unfair towards Mr. Pelas or the show. If anything Hugo spared this production more than I did. I went into a lot of detail as to why it just wasn’t up to scratch. I completely admire the fact Mr. Pelas has put the show on at his own expense, but a lot of fringe theatre is accomplished this way (speaking from experience!) I pull no punches in mine – I thought the direction was poor, some of the actors were clearly not ready and if I’m going to be very blunt, I was not entertained, inspired, or even particularly wanted to stay to see out the performance.

    Hugo’s review is justified and I not only mirror it, but champion him being honest.

    • H1972

      Little suck up

  • Nick Pelas

    Ok guys you all hated my play .Respect to you all .Let’s draw a line now as I am sure you all agree endless on line public bashing to either side is neither professional not conducive to fringe theatre as a whole .Thank you all for coming to see me show I owe you that at the very least

  • George

    Sorry Nick, we all admire anyone that promotes or supports fringe theatre, but it’s also important that the audience can leave feedback. Quite simply, it was terrible. Way too ambitious a project for poor actors, hope you won’t be put off by well intentioned flop and give us something to cheer about next time !

    • H1972

      Hilarious 😂 you sound like a character off in the loop 😂 😂 😂

  • Riccardo

    I thought the (possibly) unintended humour was understated. I wish I had been lucky enough to have a seat next to the Exit. Nick’s courage has to be recognised. There were just two things that stuck out and they weren’t seen again after the original dance sequence unfortunately… lovely smile

  • Nick Pelas

    As said on numerous occasions and numerous blogs and I suspect you are all connected , it is clear you all hated my play and you all have made your points why is this thread continuing? It is beginning to resemble a sinister troll and bullying , I understand on line harassment is a crime, I am asking you to STOP now , thank you

    • At the request of the Director of Salome we have closed this thread and will remove any further comments. We have chosen to do this to avoid causing further distress, but we regret being asked to do so, as we believe that theatre should involve a dialogue between artist and audience.

      If you have any further comment to make on this show, please contact Stage Theatre Company directly.

      Team ET