A – Z Challenge O is for Oscar and Olwen

Oscar Wilde is a man whose life creates strong feeling. His work, varied, vibrant, ahead of its time, was created in a short life and much of it in a very intense period early in his marriage to Constance Lloyd.

Oscar wrote Salomé that unrivaled work on how to bring a man down. Not John the Bapist, but his jailer, Herod is reduced to moral defeat by the will of a teenage girl. (oh, and her delightfully sexual body and wholly sexual dancing)

In 1989 when babysitting was the single thing most likely to bring me to a nervous breakdown, Gate Theatre Dublin brought Olwen Fouéré to the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in the title role of Wilde’s Salome. It was directed by Steven Berkoff and Alan Stanford played Herod. The stunning set was designed by Robert Ballogh and the action played out to music by Roger Doyle.

I had a ticket for the first Edinburgh performance which was running in a rep style programme after something else (can’t remember – were you there?) and the set change wasn’t working. One hour late (and how many babysitting tokens?) the curtain went up. Within a minute, there was total absorption throughout the theatre.

It remains in my memory one of the best and most intense theatrical experiences of my life. Thanks to all of the above, and to the babysitter, Anne De Diesbach. Also, novelist Su Bristow, who suggested Oscar Wilde when I was panicking about who to choose.

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