Words by Ben Ayaydin
When I think of Mozart I think of formality; an authoritative figure who took the 18th Century classical music scene by storm. It was with this view in mind, that I went into the National Theatre’s revival of Amadeus.
My mind was quickly turned. Instead, what I saw was a man who was simply living out the childhood he didn’t have, catching up on those lost years suppressed by the ‘child prodigy’ label that saw him spending his whole childhood touring in the public eye around the Royal courts of Europe.
Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, tells a side of the story that is often neglected by history. We all know who Mozart is and some of his work, however Amadeus is set after this. What do you have left to strive for once you have achieved the greatest success you possibly can? What will others do to take that success from you? What does it mean to build a lasting legacy that will be remembered for generations to come? These are all questions that Amadeus poses to the audience.
Lucian Msamati is fantastic in the role of Antonio Salieri. Msamati’s performance encapsulates the conflict within Salieri perfectly and adds depth to his complex character. By his side, Adam Gillen is remarkable in capturing the energetic and playful Mozart. Having said this, whilst I enjoyed his character others thought it was too much, resulting in it becoming a marmite situation; you love him or you hate him. The chemistry between Msamati and Gillen is compelling – the two presenting very different characters who bounce off one another.
The set design by Chloe Lamford is just right – a pared back form of lavish and extravagant. It really helps to encapsulate the period and is just the right amount to not detract from the play’s narrative. The colours of the costumes and set help compliment Mozart’s music, amplifying the emotion and energy within the play. The director Michael Longhurst’s decision to include a live orchestra (the Southbank Sinfonia) on stage was a bold but incredibly effective move, incorporating them within the play and characters, rather than hiding them from the audience. The onstage orchestra brought the music to life, capturing the raw energy and existence imbued within Mozart’s music, standing testament to the theme of legacy that is prevalent within the play.
There is one standout moment for me. Salieri is reading sheets of Mozart’s music. As he turns each page the music seemingly jumps from the page, giving the whole scene a magical and powerful atmosphere that. This is theatre at its best; characters and stories brought to life with live through a live orchestra. The musical director Simon Slater, has got this one spot on.
Amadeus is lively, playful, captivating and at the same time tragic, serving as a standing testimony to one of the world’s greatest composers. Filled with court intrigue, jealously and betrayal, Amadeus is well worth your time. I guarantee you will learn something that you did not know before about Mozart. It is an experience and one that I thoroughly recommend, if not for the music alone then the fantastic cast, set and plot.
Photo Credits: Marc Brenner