Amadeus at the National Theatre
Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, first performed in 1979 and now revived by Michael Longhurst, is a fictionalised dramatisation of composer Antonio Salieri’s relationship with Mozart, as the former looks back over his life. Salieri worked hard and was a good man until an impudent, irritating and frustratingly brilliant boy-wonder named Wolfgang came to Vienna. Anger, pain and jealousy ensue as Salieri battles with his mediocrity in the face of such talent. But the big question is: did he actually kill Mozart?
Lucian Msamati’s portrayal of Salieri is as powerful as one could hope for, and particularly in the second act when the full weight of Salieri’s bitterness begins to set in. He also succeeds in delivering the humour of Shaffer’s (who sadly passed away last June) script, often with very few words and deftly handles the anachronisms in the text, some of which have been modernised even further by Longhurst – such as Krispy Kremes being Salieri’s choice of gluttony in the opening scene. Adam Gillen’s Mozart, who is defined by his screeching giggle, is as annoying as is humanly possible, and this is how his character is intended to be. Nonetheless, it comes as some relief when things start to take a turn for the serious and Gillen is given the chance to showcase his talents outside of giggling and farce.
However, what truly makes Amadeus stand apart is the integration of the sublime Southbank Sinfonia on stage with the actors, and the whistle-stop tour of Mozart’s finest and most famous works with which audiences are presented. During the party scene for one, musicians and actors revel on stage together reflecting the world of the characters, where music and life are synonymous, and highlights the skill of the Sinfonia musicians who perfectly reel off pieces, from memory, whilst moving around stage. Fleur de Bray, playing Salieri’s star pupil Katherina Cavalieri is particularly impressive as a soprano and delivers several of Mozart’s best known, and most difficult, phrases over the course of the play.
Although set in 18th century Vienna, Amadeus is no standard period piece, and sets about unpicking what perhaps is not such a modern preoccupation with fame, glory and legacy. It may fail to pack the punch it seems to want to make in certain moments, but this does not take away from the excellent performances and marvelous showcase of Sinfonia’s talents.
Photos: Marc Brenner
Amadeus is on at the National Theatre from 13th October 2016 until 2nd February 2017, for further information or to book visit here. It will be broadcast live to selected cinemas on 2nd February 2017. This year marks the 14th Travelex Tickets season at the National Theatre.