Tag Archives: Lazarus Theatre

“Salomé” at the Southwark Playhouse

Lazarus Theatre Company’s exemplary production of Oscar Wilde’s infamous play benefits from Ricky Dukes’ forceful directorial vision and strong performances from a committed cast.

The production is exemplary in the sense that it suggests how to deal with a difficult text. More like a poem than a play, Salomé is hard work. Even nowadays we can see why Wilde’s morbid, exaggerated language was once thought unhealthy…it’s kind of, well, sickly. The production makes the action as clear and concise as possible. Mostly doing justice to the poetry (with the exception of added expletives) there’s even a sense of humour, which the text itself notably lacks.

Salome, Lazarus - Pauline Babula
Pauline Babula

Further credit for Dukes comes with efforts to recreate the sense of scandal the play once engendered. Young Salomé’s bargain with her step-father is made explicitly erotic with sexual tension and exploitation equally highlighted. This is achieved in sophisticated fashion thanks in part to the casting of Herod and his wife (Jamie O’Neill and Pauline Babula) who give subtle performances suggesting the power play between them as well as their characters’ individual lust for sex or power.

Games play a big part. The famous dance becomes a creepy parody of childhood fun – a brilliant move – with tag and hide-and-seek making it queasy to watch. Desire is consistently identified as dangerous – creating tension and getting to the heart of Wilde’s obsessions.

Salome, Lazarus - Fred Thomas
Fred Thomas

Further provocation comes with the casting of the leads, surely deliberately removed from the ‘blind’ casting we usually applaud. There’s a charge – and a challenge – from having a Prince Salome and a Jokanaan, explicitly praised for the whiteness of his skin, performed by a black man. The expectations of the audience (and author) are questioned. That said, what really gives the production power are the detailed and skilled performances. In the title role, Fred Thomas mixes arrogance and fear with desperation, managing to make this murderer surprisingly sympathetic.

Riveting as Thomas is, especially in the harrowing finale, eyes should really be on Prince Plockey who takes the part of the Baptist. Plockey brings a power to the prophet that makes you understand why he is feared. A continual stately procession around the table that is Sorcha Corcoran’s clever set design mounts in power. The focus Plockey brings to this pacing is fantastic and each announcement from the doomed figure creates a sense of dread fitting to the text’s doom-laden tone. Salomé is Jokanaan and Plockey’s show which, despite the title, is exactly as it should be.

Until 11 September 2021

www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

Photos by Adam Trigg

“Edward II” at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Lazarus Theatre’s production of Christopher Marlowe’s play has much to recommend it. Director Ricky Dukes’ 90-minute adaptation shows a sharp intelligence: practical, dramatically effective and unwilling to patronising the audience. The story of the gay king’s disastrous reign benefits from strong visuals: Dukes and his designer Sorcha Corcoran, working with Ben Jacobs on lighting, produce some marvellous imagery within this tiny space. The creativity and imagination here is the stuff that makes the fringe so great.

The nine-strong ensemble stays on stage throughout and proves a disciplined crew. Making up a rebellious peerage, the actors ensure that confrontations with the King bristle with anger. Andrew Gallo and Jamie O’Neill are especially strong as the brothers Mortimer, with the latter detailing his treachery with a mix of violence and intrigue.

Luke Ward-Wilkinson takes the title role and goes for a fey monarch who is impish and petulant. Arguably, this cheats the play of some tension (conflicts seems a foregone conclusion). And it also short changes Edward’s relationship to his wife – a shame, since Lakesha Cammock makes a very fine Queen Isabella. But Ward-Wilkinson’s decision is committed and consistent, getting humour out of the role as well as passion. It’s also brave. Dukes’ vision for Edward’s notorious assassination is nightmarish, kinky and demands a lot from his cast. The ensemble are all in their pants, with disposable aprons and gloves. Believe me, it’s creepy. The addition of masks goes too far, only causing confusion – are the same characters in disguise and, if so, why bother? But this is not a scene you’re likely to forget in a hurry.

The finale is certainly memorable with Ward-Wilkison naked and sprayed with blood from the ceiling – another memorable tableau. Yet the real strengths of the production are simpler: tight directorial control and technically strong delivery all round. Dukes and his team have produced a piece of remarkable clarity. It may be too blunt for some tastes, but you can’t argue with its force or the skill on stage.

Until 9 September 2017

www.lazarustheatrecompany.com

Photo by Adam Trigg