Salome, Curve, Leicester

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The Independent Culture

In an abstract Middle East, where black oil rather than glittering jewels represents King Herod's fabulous wealth, we're a long way from either a Biblical context or Oscar Wilde's tragedy, Salome. Jamie Lloyd, whose bold production is set in a post-apocalyptic future, has taken a radical approach to Wilde's portrayal of an icon of dangerous female seductiveness.

A mixed-race armed guard is holed up in a sludgy and claustrophobic underground kingdom, making little sense of Wilde's references to the moon or Herod's white peacocks. Such anomalies apart, it is an imaginative reduction of Wilde's play, with Lloyd creating his own adaptation for 10 characters.

On the bare stage of Leicester Curve, co-producer with Rupert Goold's Headlong Theatre, voices sound strained as the actors screech and shout, words not easily audible. Con O'Neill, compelling as a lascivious, sex-mad Herod, cackles maniacally while bawling most of his lines. Zawe Ashton's nubile Salome fondles herself provocatively while Herod masturbates his way through the ecstasy of her disco dance to the accompaniment of tinny music from a ghetto-blaster.

From a solid ensemble cast, Richard Cant's Page of Herodias stands out as one whose quiet voice carries touchingly in his recollections of his closeness to Sam Donovan's jittery, suicidal Young Syrian. Jaye Griffiths is a jaded Herodias who only comes alive when marvelling at her daughter's wiliness in insisting on Iokanaan's head "in a silver platter" as her reward for dancing for Herod.

Seun Shote's Iokanaan (John the Baptist) has an animal magnetism and magnificence as he emerges, chained, from beneath a large manhole cover.



Now at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (01483 44 00 00) to 22 May : then touring Richmond, Oxford, Newcastle and Brighton; Hampstead Theatre, London NW3 (020 7722 9301) 22 June to 17 July

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