Devised and performed by Olivia Hendry and Andrew Sutherland
Directed by Joe Lui (with creative producer Briannah Davis)
Designed by Declan Macphail
Sound and light design by Joe Lui
I’ve seen two versions
of, or at least in a trajectory around, Oscar Wilde’s Salome. The first
(showing my age again) was Lindsay Kemp’s hallucinogenic, slow-motion marvel at
the London Roundhouse in 1977 that made it, and him, icons of their age.
The second, far more prolix
and topical than Kemp’s, is a Summer Nights production at the Blue Room. (Those
of you who’ve been feeling there’s something missing from this year’s Fringe
World, that’s what it is.)
The dancer Olivia Hendry and the polyalternatist Andrew Sutherland have wrapped
themselves in Joe Lui’s dense son et lumiere, Declan Macphail’s Siamese
twin-set of an Aubrey Beardsley gown, and Lui and Briannah Davis’s minutely
reactive direction. Then, layer by layer of exquisite, excruciating pain, they dance
their seven veils for us.
There’s a consumptive
nostalgia for illness embroidered into those veils, transformed into an aesthetic
beauty, like Rosetti’s Beata Beatrix.
And they are
beautiful; Hendry, pale, with breasts exposed like
Beardsley’s Salome, Sutherland reptilian, microphone and stand raised aloft like photographs
of a Jim Morrison.
Sutherland is declamatory, much in the way of Allen Ginsberg, and he takes us on
a nightmare journey through the underworlds of the diseases of our time,
HIV/AIDS, anorexia and, now, COVID; Hendry is silent, orbiting, covering and
uncovering in the material that binds them both, unravelling away and spinning
back to him.
It’s an intensely
personal double-act, the dancer and the poet, drawn from experience, repetitive
Finally, quite unexpectedly,
when all the veils have been removed, Sutherland becoming a dancer, Hendry an orator, in a
pas de deux of joys and sorrows.
It reminds you – this is a show that incubates memory – of Leonard Cohen’s “And when we fell together/ All our flesh was like a veil”.
There are no veils of secrecy in this Salome, though it is complex, both
in its messages and its tempo, and might be impenetrable if you hit its
atmosphere at the wrong angle.
But, like a dance, or a poem, or a deathbed, it has an honesty that can
only arise in places where there’s nothing else left to lose.
(You'll enjoy Nina Levy's insightful review in Seesaw Magazine here)
Salome δ is at the Blue Room until Feb 5.