Bold & Ambitious Production of Peter Shaffer’s Play
National Theatre designers abhor a vacuum. Faced with the big space of the Olivier and Lyttleton auditoria, they feel the need to fill them with sets that dominate and slow down the plays.
Not so Amadeus. The stage is filled, but with people, mainly an orchestra. So Mozart‘s sublime works literally take centre stage, not to mention Simon Slater‘s wonderful additional music with its jangling jarring sounds conveying the states of mind of the two protagonists.
Chloe Langford keeps the sets simple and nothing distracts- appropriately a simple piano dominates every scene.
Brilliant acting by Lucian Msamati & Adam Gillen
The two central roles of Salieri and Mozart are acted brilliantly. Lucian Msamati is the wily member of the establishment. You can feel his anguish at understanding the greatness of Mozart’s music while being denied the talent to match it. You understand why he wants to bring his rival down.
It’s a difficult trick to pull off but Adam Gillen communicates the great composer’s annoying child-like innocence while still exuding the power of his genius.
There is so much in Peter Shaffer‘s play that a revival is more than merited: the frustration of recognising great art but being unable to create it oneself; the ease with which a cynical dissembler can destroy a naive open person; that Man tests God’s achievement rather than the other way round; that immortality can be obtained through evil or through association with the immortal; and much much more. All of which is brought out vividly in this bold production directed by Michael Longhurst.
Amadeus is streaming on the National Theatre At Home website
This review, originally written on 21 February 2017, was revised on 19 January 2018. A version has appeared on the Southampton Daily Echo website.