I came to this live performance having seen the excellent short film of EDIFICE Dance Theatre’s Salomé, directed by Rogério Silva (easily accessible on YouTube for those who want a treat), and confess to having been initially disappointed since the hour-long theatrical show didn’t match the high production standards of that six-minute film. However, I must concede that such comparison is unfair and one that denies the powerful stage performances of a fine cast, notably in the seductive power of Harriet Waghorn as Salomé and the stoic nobility of Carmine De Amicis as Jokanaan (John the Baptist).
This inventive dance theatre summarises Oscar Wilde’s one-act play, which relates the Biblical story of Salomé and her unrequited feelings for Jokanaan, leading to the ultimate revenge of persuading her lustful stepfather, Herod, to give her the Baptist’s head on a silver platter, as a reward for performing the salacious dance of the seven veils, so that she could fulfil her promise to kiss Jokanaan’s lips.
It was a clever idea to perform Salomé in the round, bringing the intimacy of the story up front and centre in this immersive experience, but while such closeness maximised the expressive strength of Waghorn and De Amicis, it also emphasised some incongruous costume choices (especially footwear) both in terms of story and period. An angular platform, like a twisted, monumental anvil, was a versatile set device that became a place of seduction, bacchanalia and much more besides.
An opening solo for De Amicis was a fluid and muscular articulation of John the Baptist’s tortured captivity and a prescient prelude to his eventual fate. De Amicis is well-remembered from Shobana Jeyasingh’s Bayadère – The Ninth Life and his versatility extends to being a professional ballroom and Latin American Dancer. These elements, together with hip hop, contemporary and burlesque references, infused an eclectic potpourri of dance styles. Additional cast members, Vasiliki Papapostolou and Tom Wohlfahrt are also skilful Latin American dancers (Wohlfahrt is a former British Champion) and they brought their silky expertise to enliven the party scenes.
Waghorn’s sensual, seductive Salomé was an arresting and complex portrayal, particularly in her evolving relationship with Herod. The speed, passion and fluency of her dancing with De Amicis was impressive, engaging and powerful. Salomé’s final duet with the lifeless body of Jokanaan is a reversal of Kenneth MacMillan’s final act duet in Romeo and Juliet.
Herod was portrayed by Fabio Dolce as a sort of regal medallion man, lascivious in his desire for his stepdaughter, and a generous host of drunken parties. Dolce exudes the manic power of the Tetriarch (one of four co-emperors of the Roman Empire) who can have anything he wants, apart from his beautiful stepdaughter; and he is finally, reluctantly willing to overcome his superstitious fear of Jokanaan for the chance to see her strip (by the way, this and the death of Jokanaan are handled tastefully by being left largely to the imagination). Philip O’Meara’s music is suitably descriptive, partly recorded and partly played live onstage by violinist, Mitch McGugan, and oboeist Mikey Sluman, both of whom showed impressive versatility by doubling up as party guests and extra movement performers.
EDIFICE Dance Theatre is still not yet five years’ old and Salomé is the company’s fourth production. It is raw, punchy and intimate dance theatre that was absorbing, stimulating and entertaining. The company certainly seems to be on an upward curve and I am keen to see what more Waghorn and de Amicis can bring to their repertoire both on stage and film.