Oscar Wilde used a bible story to render a sense of the end of the world and the disquieting gender transformations of the late nineteenth century. Religious factions are warring in Herod’s kingdom, each of which is fervently defending its vision of the world, its values and god. The most radical movement is being born beyond the palace walls, demanding the overthrow of the old order. One apostle of the new religion is the prophet Jokanaan, a prisoner of King Herod. On the streets, frustration and confusion are running amok; some demand the blasphemer be punished, others want their holy leader released. In the palace, inertia and total decision-making paralysis reign, a sad banquet is underway, where the criminal king, who is increasingly divorced from reality, grapples with his spirits.
In the extremely materialistic world she inhabits, the titular Salome searches for spiritual direction to give meaning to life. She finds it in her impossible love for the prophet. The closing bloody command for which Salome is famous seems to be an act of seizing agency, grasping independence – albeit both destructive and self-destructive. “Each man kills the thing he loves,” wrote Wilde in his last poem. His protagonist is similarly ambiguous and impossible to pigeonhole.
Wilde’s drama resonates disturbingly in our own times, in our contemporary world touched by the pandemics of disinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories, divided into tribes condemned to misunderstandings, whose views have become a question of faith, not reason.
The titular protagonist stands before us as a naive teenager, before showing her true, ruthless, and quite subversive face. Herodias’ daughter uses the charms of her body and mind to achieve her goal, and without the slightest hesitation. The skilfully rendered conflict between her restrained words and lascivious behaviour allows the viewer to gauge the worth of words that have no reflection in actions. Hypocrisy, sensuality, and lies – these are the three axes that build the character of Salome (played by Aleksandra Nowosadko) […], which nonetheless eludes the typical femme fatale. Placing this image, this character in Oscar Wilde’s script builds a most interesting and thought-provoking play.
Mateusz Leon Rychlak, kulturanacodzień.pl