Nature abhors a vacuum. Faced with the big space of the Olivier and Lyttleton auditoria, National Theatre designers feel the need to fill them with sets that dominate and slow down the plays. That’s why I haven’t enjoyed my last few visits to the National Theatre’s big auditoria. The Threepenny Opera was well acted and directed but I spent so much time twiddling my thumbs while the sets moved that I was totally alienated, and not in a Brechtian way.
Not so Amadeus. The stage is filled with people, mainly an orchestra playing Mozart‘s sublime works and Simon Slater‘s wonderful additional music. Chloe Langford keeps the sets simple and nothing distracts- appropriately a simple piano dominates every scene.
The two central roles of Salieri and Mozart are acted brilliantly. Lucian Msamati is the wily member of the establishment and Adam Gillen the innocent child-like 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 brought out vividly in this bold production directed by Michael Longhurst.
The current season is sold out but Amadeus will return to the National Theatre in 2018.
A special word for Simon Slater. He is responsible for the music in Theatre Royal Winchester‘s pantomimes and it is one of the factors that make our pantos stand out from the crowd. For Amadeus, where he is also Musical Director, he has taken advantage of the live orchestra to bring to the production terrific jangling jarring sounds to convey the states of mind of the two protagonists.
A version of this review has appeared on the Daily Echo website