In Dawn Walton’s production of salt. at the Royal Court, the task of delivering this stark, pressing monologue falls to Rochelle Rose, who, sledgehammer in hand (literally), makes good on the play’s compelling promises. Its stripped-back set and clever soundscape provide a wonderful backdrop for the evocation of Thompson’s colourful and painful journey, and the play’s central metaphor is well-worked: salt, a valued commodity, product of the ocean that bore slaves on their way, still has the power to sting centuries-old wounds.
Not everything about salt. clicks. In part, it’s the text itself – Thompson’s tonal variety occasionally misfires, her concrete allusions to literature and politics sitting unhappily amongst anecdotes that tend from the spiritual to the downright saccharine. And frequent allusions to an all-powerful, domineering Europe feel less, not more, appropriate in light of present geopolitical reality, perhaps unexpectedly.
What’s more, there’s something in Rose’s assumption of Thompson’s mantle that faintly misses the mark, possibly stemming from her wavering capacity to hold onto the playwright’s Brummie accent. One way or another, we’re never quite able to suspend our disbelief that the woman before us made the journey herself – which feels critical to the success of the performance.
It’s not fun to find fault with what is undeniably an intelligent, impassioned and important play – all the more reason to enjoy, but feel slightly let down, by this bold and memorable piece of theatre.
|What||salt., Royal Court review|
|Where||Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Sloane Square (underground)|
14 May 19 – 01 Jun 19, 7:45 PM – 9:00 PM
|Price||£20 – £25|
|Website||Click here for booking and more information|