The RSC is set to stage Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé through what it calls a “gay lens” to mark 50 years of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.
Staged to mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the Royal Shakespeare Company is staging Oscar Wilde’s lyrical one-act play, Salomé. Originally banned in Britain, this new production, performed with an almost all male cast, explores sexual ambiguity in the contemporary world. The production is directed by Owen Horsley, and Matthew Tennyson will take on the role of Salomé, a part usually played by a female actor.
Gay Seattle-based artist, Perfume Genius, will provide the music for the production. Material from his album, Too Bright, will be performed live by the RSC band.
Salomé also features Andro Cowperthwaite, or simply Andro, who is also a singer, and has just released a new music track, Afterlife, which challenges the listener to rethink their perceptions of what masculinity and femininity is.
Director Owen Horsley said,
“For me Oscar Wilde’s Salomé is one of the greatest plays about unfulfilled desire. It was written by gay man who was expressing his desires at a time – in the 19th Century – when it was illegal for him to do so. In this year, the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, I felt it was important to view this play through a gay lens – to look back at the gay experience 50 years ago and now.
“This production will paint the play afresh by casting a male actor – Matthew Tennyson – in the title role, a part that is usually played by a female actor. This portrayal will explore the ambiguity of gender and sexuality, and the anger, anxiety, mystery and chaos it can cause in the world.
“Using the music of Perfume Genius, a musician who explores the dangers faced by gay men in contemporary society, the iconic dance of Salomé will be filled with a brute force that reinforces her symbolic status of undying desire.”
“I want to celebrate a world where you now don’t go to prison because you are gay, but I also feel that it’s important to acknowledge that being a gay man is still complex, especially in the context of gender. There is still a sense of shame, an element of vulnerability and this requirement for male and female to be defined terms. And we still live in a world where in the first two months of this year seven transgender Americans were murdered, and less than a year ago 49 people were murdered in a hate crime at a gay nightclub in Orlando.”
Andro Cowperthwaite, or simply Andro is a member of the Salomé cast. As well as being an actor, Andro is a singer who smashes the stereotype of what it means to be a Black/Mixed Race artist in this era of social norm and expectancy.
Talking about Salomé and Afterlife, Andro says,
“In terms of Salomé, I think that audiences and artists alike should be sensitive and open in our judgement to the fluidity of how we can portray characters of the opposite sex on stage, and even more so in the outside world. And with Afterlife what I’m saying is that we as people need to rethink our perception of what masculinity and femininity is.”
“Salomé” by Oscar Wilde
Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
2 June – 6 September 2017
Tickets www.rsc.org.uk/salome or 01789 403493