This has been a most spectacular week, theatre-wise. Starting at the Barbican, Nevermore – the Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe was just pure magic. Ok, I am bias here. I am a sucker for musical theatre, especially the dark, unhappy kind. And that, my friend, is something that does not come along very often so this was a real treat. With Poe’s own words “all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream” guiding the aesthetic direction, Nevermore is the life (and dreams) of Edgar Allan Poe told like a gothic puppet show reminiscing Tim Burton and Lemony Snicket, containing more death and calamity than your average Greek tragedy (it has to be admitted; I pulled a cardigan over my head more than once). Poe himself is slightly one-dimensional but I think there is a point in that. Being more about telling than showing, it is the music that is the star of the show and the Poesque verse is both witty and harrowing.

Moving on now to Hampstead Theatre and Oscar Wilde’s Salome. Sigh, what to say? I get that it must be very tempting to do classics in modern dress these days and camouflage, machine guns, sand and oil appears to be the favoured choice (as if it was common duty to draw Iraqi parallels wherever possible). And with no taboos these days restricting the action, nakedness and sex on stage is more rule than exception. Now, while as a general idea this is getting a bit drab, it does quite often work well or possibly less well. In the case of Salome it just did not work at all. While it fits the basic (Biblical) story, Wilde’s Salome is pure poetry, evocative and sensual. This production is in-your-face and aggressive rather than suggestive, and Wilde’s lines are completely corrupted in orgiastic tomfoolery and masturbatory frenzy. But hey, it gets a point for trying.

Carbón Club, part of the National’s Watch This Space Festival, wins the prize for most excellent catholic imagery with its priest walking through the audience carrying a burning bible. Me like. And the show was jam-packed with these ingenious tricks of fire, explosions and what not. Full-on action performed very intimately, making the audience duck under everything from blowtorches to champagne showers. Now, while this is all very well I have to say, as a cabaret, the song and dance acts did just not come together all that well. Lots of poignant points (mining accidents, rape and lost love) were unevenly balanced by repeated jokes. One wish that less energy had been spent on special effects and more on the real extravaganza which, in comparison, costs no money. Nonetheless, new and interesting and so great to be outside and do something a little bit unusual.

Here my friend, are some gorgeous Salomes…(and not a Beardsley in sight, I’m sorry to say but I do find him tiresome.)

(Corinth; von Stuck; Strathman; Dessau-Gottein)

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