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Amadeus (Review) Amadeus (Review)
 ... Amadeus (Review)

 

After a sell out run last year, Michael Longhurst’s lauded revival of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus returns to the Olivier theatre for a second run. Ageing Salieri cries out in his room, begging the long dead Mozart for absolution on the eve of his own passing. He recounts their relationship in the court of Vienna as two prominent composers, building to the mystery of the Mozart’s death.

 

The love at the heart of the production is clear – the music. Lucien Msamati’s masterful and compelling performance as Salieri opens his heart to the audience and shares an extraordinary passion and appreciation for opera and the act of creation.

 

It sweeps you up. The purity of Mozart’s music, performed by the dazzling Southbank Sinfonia, is reflected in the raw production elements that come together to create the court of Vienna.

 

The stage design is simple, a little rough around the edges and a mish-mash of contemporary and period detail, creating a vibrant and eclectic world of chaotic symphony which soars when the music kicks in.

 

We see both the mechanics of the spectacle, the practicalities of performance alongside the seemingly effortless swell of emotion evoked by Mozart’s score. We also see the achievement and the work involved in worshipping at this altar. This may be a story of revenge and destruction, but there is no question that it’s this love that is the guiding force.

 

The tragedy is that this is not a requited love. Both Salieri and Mozart dedicate their lives to their passion, only to be left desolate and abandoned.

 

Orphaned Salieri devotes his life to study, rising through the ranks thanks to patronage and charm, only to see his greatest desire be granted to a crude, brash man-child. The injustice pushes Salieri into a war with God, his rage aimed at an invisible force that would create the genius of Mozart.

 

Mozart meanwhile – spoilt by money, talent and position – abuses his privilege, alienating those in power and self-destructing in the vain belief that music will save him.

 

They both abuse those close to them, for the sake of their art, Salieri’s relationships are superficial and contrived, while Mozarts obsessive, erratic temperament distances him even from those most devoted, his loving wife Constanze.

 

And at the end neither man is fulfilled – Mozart falls into ruin and dies with his work largely unrecognised. Salieri achieves fame, but it is fleeting and his music falls into obscurity as Mozart’s becomes immortal. At the end, Salieri must face the devastating truth that his love is simply indifferent.

 

A technical masterclass in theatre making and story telling, the violent hedonism and opulent indulgence makes the production feel fresh and contemporary.

 

Msamati is mesmerising holding the whole audience in his gaze as he confronts them with Salieri’s ego and pride, but never losing the heart that drives him. Adam Gillen’s hyperactive whirlwind Mozart is the perfect foil to Msamati’s measured control and his childish naivety softens the abrasive edges.

 

Adele Leonce’s no-nonsense Contanze attempts to keep both men grounded but can not compete with their passion for music.

 

The final tragedy shows the danger of pride – what Salieri and Mozart share eclipses their conflict. They are two halves of the same whole and Salieri’s quest to destroy his rival may be why he failed to realise his own ambitions.

 

Subtle yet spectacular, if you missed it the first time round, this is a second chance to experience a truly emotional and invigorating theatrical experience.

 

Amadeus is playing at the National Theatre, till 24 April 2018, visit https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/amadeus/whats-on for tickets and details.

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