Who doesn’t love a good meta-play? One of three Fourth Monkey plays up this year, San Salome has two parallel storylines: Oscar Wilde attempting to stage his controversial late work Salome just prior to his incarceration running alongside that of a bickering lesbian couple is an intriguing and elegant production.
The stage is marble white and sparsely set, with a neat added touch of hanging scrolls containing excerpts from ‘An Ideal Husband’, the comedy which Wilde has just had staged and is determined not to recreate. The backdrop is sporadically backlit with luminescent light that brings an evocative quality to the scenes.
It is Wilde’s play that gets in the title and it is Wilde’s storyline that has more time and effort devoted to it. This storyline and writing is much stronger, shot through with Wilde’s trademark wit and panache as well as retelling a genuinely fascinating era of history. Euan Forsyth made a fine Wilde, eccentric but not excessive and able to get his tongue around some sharp lines with eloquence. His chemistry with Bosie(a delightfully foppish Brendan Ryan) is also excellent. Hannah Hutchinson’s Sarah Bernhardt brought a certain style and gait to proceedings and even made a commendable attempt at an archaic French accent, whilst a laddish but earnest Brookfield (Cameron Moore) grounded the play neatly.
The modern storyline follows a lesbian couple Oli (Rachel Stock) and Mia (Fia Oxenham) who both put in sterling if rather limited performances, comparatively hampered as they are by their arc of the play being a little underwritten until the ending, where it rings finally and excellently true.
Fourth Monkey’s trademark devising and physical theatre is strongly in evidence here. Particularly powerful is the entire cast’s continual presence on the stage, dropping into tableau when not called into action. This constant business brought new life to scenes on the underground or at a coffee shop and also made the closing more powerful, as each small sect of the large company is resolved and exits the stage until only Wilde and Mia are left and the respective narratives draw to a close. The contrast between these endings is beautifully enacted and is what ultimately justifies the second storyline as well as hammering home the quality of this eloquent production.