Solomon and Sheba appear briefly in the Old Testament when Sheba visits King Solomon, tests him with hard questions until dawn, then Solomon gives to Sheba ‘all her desire’. Although the Book of Kings doesn’t say what this desire might be! However, I have found countless other tales exist about Solomon and Sheba. Stories of their meeting have crossed geographical, religious, and linguistic borders, and are not just in The Bible, but can be found in The Koran and The Talmud. Their meeting has been expanded and embroidered in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Greek, and European folklore. The Queen of Sheba is known by different names: Bilqis in Persia; Maqeda in Ethiopia; Shebiliya in Arabia. The story has been the subject of frescos and paintings, chap books and films.
I have been researching and collecting tales about Solomon and Sheba for over 20 years, and this performance has had many incarnations. This is a flim clip from The Barbican some years ago. Through conversations with curators, discussions with folklorists and travellers, and chats with audience members I continues to piece together the lost fragments of this story. The performance tells how Solomon seduces Sheba, then looses his wisdom, and his throne. I trace Sheba’s ancestry back through Medieval folklore to Adam’s first wife, Lilith, and forward all the way to the British nursery and Mother Goose! And finally reveal the secret of Sheba’s virginity. I weave folklore, archaeology and history through the stories.
Provoking, seductive, and a virgin,
the Queen of Sheba visits King Solomon to test his wisdom.
Riddles and tricks, desire and foolishness ensue,
as they unravel each others’ histories.
The latest edition to the performance was a gift from a family friend who gave me a fragile rolled-up piece of cloth. The cloth turned out to be a story-scroll from Ethiopia. The scroll depicts the Ethiopian epic – The Kebra Nagast – The Book of Kings. The scroll was used by storytellers as an aid to tell the story and has now become part of the performance. Perhaps you might have insights and stories about Solomon and Sheba – do share them after this performance.
Solomon and Sheba performance by Sally Pomme Clayton
20 January 2016 7.30pm
3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL