The film includes tremendous swaths of Oscar Wilde's 1893 play 'Salome,' but situates it within a clever framing device: Wilde (shrewdly and shrewishly played by Nickolas Grace) is accompanied by his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (a youngish, boyish Douglas Hodge), to a brothel.
There, a staging of Wilde's play unexpectedly gets underway. That the visit of the great playwright takes place on Guy Fawkes Day -- honoring the man who attempted to blow up the British Parliament -- should be viewed as a gesture of pure poetic irony.
Russell now proceeds to paint his whimsical scenario with a coat of metatheatrical varnish. Each of the actors in the film -- but not Grace -- double up in some 'Salome' role, beginning with Hodge as John the Baptist, whose pretty head Salome famously comes to demand. There's also a superlative turn by the timeless Glenda Jackson as Herodias and the now-obscure Imogen Millais-Scott looking sultry and fetching in the title role.