Salome was written by Oscar Wilde in 1891, stirred by his attraction to Lord Alfred Douglas. In this play, based on the tale from the New Testament, Herod is so infatuated with his stepdaughter, Salome, that he promises her up to half of his kingdom if she performs the libidinous "Dance of the Seven Veils" for him. She performs the dance, and to Herod's chagrin, requests that he give her the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. Though Herod tries to break his oath, he eventually fulfills his promise and Salome claims her grisly reward.
Due to Wilde's florid stage directions, Salome has been notoriously difficult to produce. This legendary interpretation by Steven Berkoff avoids the many pitfalls of stripping the play down to its essential components, favoring a simplicity in sets and props as a way to highlight the bejeweled prose of Wilde's famous text. Berkoff explains his groundbreaking creative choice thusly: "So much was the perfume and tapestry in the language that I decided that the stage should be bare and allow the words to bounce off the hard surfaces without being softened or cushioned by 'carpets and ivory tables and the tables of jasper.'