Director: Michael Longhurst
Writer: Peter Shaffer
Cast: Lucian Msamati, Adam Gillen, Karla Crome, Fleur de Bray, Geoffrey Beevers, Hugh Sachs
Seen on: 2.2.2017
Antonio Salieri (Lucian Msamati) looks back on his life, especially his relationship with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Adam Gillen). When Mozart arrived at court, Salieri was already a well-established musician. Mozart’s genius swept Vienna, and his music deeply impresses Salieri. But Mozart the man turns out to be a disappointment, pushing Salieri into a deep crisis: why was this simpering fool graced with such musical talent, and he himself wasn’t?
Amadeus is an interesting production of a good (albeit historically inaccurate) play that suffers, though, from its take on Mozart.
I love the movie Amadeus which is based on this play, though it has been years that I saw it (definitely time to watch it again). So much of the criticism that can be levelled at the play wasn’t new to me. That is mostly the lack of historical accuracy: there is no evidence that Salieri hate-revered Mozart as much as shown in the play. But if you’re willing to accept this version of their relationship, you get treated to one of the most complex relationships ever dissected on-stage.
Salieri isn’t simply jealous of Mozart and he doesn’t think he is overrated. He recognizes his talent and is almost forced to become his confidante because he alone has enough musical understanding to really appreciate the beauty of Mozart’s music – but not enough talent to match it. Above all he is disappointed by the fallible man behind the genius.
And this is were this production left me wanting: Salieri is such a complex figure (wonderfully played by Msamati), his relationship with Mozart is such a layered challenge – and Mozart himself is such a flat, exhausting character here. I assume that what Longhurst and Gillen were going for was to portray Mozart with a mental disability, maybe on the autistic spectrum. Which is already a highly problematic decision: Mozart is supposed to be this character at odds with himself: heavenly talent versus profane personality. But disability is not at odds with talent, it is not profane, so that doesn’t work. Especially since it amounts to Gillen performing Mozart as exhaustingly super-tense, with a lot of facial ticks and at times pitifully slobbering. It’s admirable that he can keep it up throughout the entire play (I barely could keep up with him), but it doesn’t work for the character.
Much better was the decision to put not only the music center-stage, but also the musicians themselves. Coupled with the beautiful costumes, it gave the production a sense of lavishness that perfectly complements the emotional drama of the characters and the story. And even if I had my issues with Mozart here, it makes the production very much worth seeing.
Summarizing: Very solid production.