Review: Salt at Leeds Playhouse

Tuesday 2nd October 2018 at Leeds Playhouse (Pop Up).


Salt is a new work from writer and performer Selina Thompson and it should, and most likely will, leave you reeling.

It’s difficult to step outside of the theatre and not think about this show and this woman all the way home to our own lives. Framed as an account of a recent voyage taken by two contemporary artists to travel one of the routes of the Transatlantic Slave Triangle, Thompson relays the personal experiences along the way which are enough to dig into the skin of any audience member.

It’s difficult to distil this piece of new writing into something which overviews the very personal nature of the work with any real accuracy; there’s just so much more here than a blurb can offer. It’s an experience full of experiences many won’t have encountered, but many will also recognise themselves in the situations described by Thompson, and that hangs above the stage as an indignant shared experience which shouldn’t even exist on a modern landscape.

The journey may be one taken in 2016, and it may have been about tracing a historical tragedy, but past and present collide constantly and uncomfortably, making this solo show thoroughly compelling with a very gifted speaker at the centre of it.


Salt is a journey for both Thompson and her audience; a sharing of a personal voyage with strangers hanging onto her every word as she takes us across continents.

It’s a journey of self-knowledge, pain, healing and growth – of imperfect remembrance when faced with no real means of remembering victims with anything nearing enough gravity. It’s chasing a past which has been erased in too many ways. It’s also a history lesson, wrenching ignored atrocities back from the margins while also spotlighting the shameful history of prejudice, racism and alienation continuing in the here and now.

Salt is hard-hitting without sensationalism and moving without cloying – the words roar without Thompson needing to; there are no tactics for jerking tears, just brutal honesty, confident in the knowledge that the blunt truth will be enough. But there’s also a lightness to Thompson’s work – mentions of family instantly soften the moment and Thompson’s presence is one of gentle strength with frequent wry smiles to accompany her wisdoms.

The writing is beautifully and often profoundly lyrical and serves the suffering as well as it does the optimism, but there are no absolute solutions here, just further journeys ahead. Salt tells us that Thompson seeks an outlet for all the things she withstands with such restraint; Salt the performance and salt the substance are her means for delivering a thunderous shower of home truths deserving of every ear.

You should go and see her perform this brutally brilliant new work – if you leave feeling anything less than inspired, humbled and compelled to do more to be better, you should probably turn around, head straight back in and listen harder the second time around.

Salt is directed by Dawn Walton and is part of Leeds Playhouse’s Furnace Festival which supports important new work. It plays at Leeds Playhouse’s Pop Up theatre until 3rd October 2018 and you can find tickets here.

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