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Queer view of Salome lacks perspective

Salome, Swan Theatre, Stratford, until Sept 6.

Owen Horsley's production of Oscar Wilde’s play Salome has been staged to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

While a homosexual subtext to Salome is not a new perspective, casting a male actor - Matthew Tennyson - in the principal role leaves sub-text, not to mention subtlety, behind.

With a production the intention of which is to explore “the complex issue of what it means to be gay today”, such clear intent ends up detracting from other key themes of Salome.

Horsley’s production lacks a portrayal of male and female inequality, female emancipation and the objectification of the female form. A Salome for the 50th anniversary is limited: there is no room for anything else.

This is certainly an earnest and ambitious production, and yet the good intentions rest on weak foundations.

As raw material, plot and script do not lend themselves strongly enough to Horsley's cause. The homoerotic potential of Wilde's text is too subtle for the intensity that we see on stage and Horsley is left with having to provide an extrapolation of Salome, taking the play into less subtle territory that in the end distracts us, as much as it may inform us, about what it means to be gay.

With a striking set of stark, angular wooden structures by Bretta Gerecke, Kristina Hjelm's lighting and inventive choreography by Polly Bennett, Salome’s thematic limitations are not reflected in the use of physical space on stage, which is skillfully done.

Picture: Isaac James, RSC.

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