Olivier, National Theatre London (**)

© Johan Persson, Isabella Nefar (Salome) about to be cleansed and rise anew...

© Johan Persson, Isabella Nefar (Salome) about to be cleansed and rise anew…

Really, the kindest thing to do about Yaël Farber’s Salomé is quietly to draw a veil over it.

There is bad theatre and then there is very bad acting. Sadly, Farber’s Salomé falls into the latter category.

I’d be the first to say, `let’s reclaim the forgotten women of history’, to name the nameless, to conjure the millions still undergoing bitter occupation, physical and mental. I don’t even mind parallels between the personal – Salomé – and her forgotten or hidden story – and other recent and ongoing occupations in old Judean sand.

But when it comes to `art’ (with a small `a’) and theatre, please, as Hamlet might have said, suit the action to the word, the word to the action. Overstep not the bounds of modesty.

If only Farber whose magnificent productions of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs have become touchstones in stagecraft in the past couple of years had remembered – or indeed even heeded his injunctions.

© Johan Persson, the `last' supper image before John the Baptist's beheading...

© Johan Persson, the `last’ supper image before John the Baptist’s beheading…

But unfortunately, in her quest to `reclaim’ Salomé from Oscar Wilde, her reputation as the lustful destroyer of John the Baptist and to give her a voice’, histrionic pretension takes the place of style and banality hits the ground running in words.

Why, Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, Salomé says in two minutes what Farber, plunging back into past and Old Testament history, strains for over 100 tortuous minutes.

Overblown in nearly all departments (even when it comes to the two ululating women singers and composer Adam Cork), no wonder some of the cast looked as though they wished they were anywhere else but going through such grotesquerie. I felt embarrassed for them.

Rather than name names, the rest, as they say, is silence…

Sad and so disappointing.

A new play by Yaël Farber

Caiaphus, Sanhedrin High Priest: Philip Arditti
Herod, Client King: Paul Chahidi
Iokanaan, the Zealot: Ramzi Choukair
Giora, Hebrew Guard: Uriel Emil
Nameless: Olwen Fouéré
Pilate: Roman Prefect: Lloyd Hutchinson
Bar Giora, Zealot-to-be: Shahar Isaac
Abaddon, the Executioner: Aidan Kelly
Woman of Song: Yasmin Levy
Yeshua, the Madman: Theo T J Lowe
Salomé so-called: Isabella Nefar
Woman of Song: Lubana Al Quntar
Annas: Sanhedrin Elder: Raad Rawi

Director: Yaël Farber
Designer: Susan Hilferty
Lighting Designer: Tim Lutkin
Music & Sound: Adam Cork
Movement Director: Ami Shulman
Fight Director: Kate Waters
Dramaturg: Drew Lichtenberg
Company Voice Work: National Theatre Voice Department
Staff Director: Bryony Shanahan

Casting: Toby Whale CDG
Costume Supervisor: Poppy Hall

First perf of this production of Salomé in the National’s Olivier Theatre, London, May 9 and continues to July 15, 2017

World premiere produced by the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC in Oct 2015

This review first published on this site, May 11, 2017.