This is maybe a bit of a tease review, as this production is pretty sold out, but I feel like I just have to share how great this production at the National Theatre is.
I knew very little about Amadeus before I went to see it; aside from the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa and Bart spoof it. So as a little bit more background, it’s written by Peter Shaffer and is the story of Antonio Salieri (Lucian Msamati), a prominent musician in Vienna who is driven wild with jealousy when the vulgar prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Adam Gillen) arrives in the city. Salieri channels his jealous into destroying the other musician, in a play that is funny, moving and above all a celebration of great music.
The National’s production is just so well done. Directed by Michael Longhurst (who also directed They Drink it in the Congo), despite its lengthy run-time the play never really felt baggy or dragged. The music in the piece is bought brilliantly to life by musicians from the Southbank Sinfonia and an ensemble of singers under the direction of Simon Slater and is stunning (even to this opera and classical music newbie). Paul Arditti’s sound design also ensures that when Msamati is speaking over the music everything is still heard very clearly. There are also some fun supporting performances from Tom Edden, Geoffrey Beevers, Alexandra Mathie and Hugh Sachs as the Emperor and his cadre of advisors (Mathie in particular appears to be channelling a certain German chancellor).
Really though, Amadeus would be a wholly underwhelming experience if the two central performances fell flat, and fortunately neither do. Gillen as Mozart renders him both massively irritating but (especially towards the end of the play) ultimately sympathetic. His energy is off-the-scale and I have no idea how he manages to sustain it through the evening. Really though, the evening belongs to Msamati’s Salieri. He is simply incredible, and holds the sold-out Olivier Theatre in his palm whenever he addresses the audience. Msamati does an excellent job of moving between humour and darkness and brilliantly presents Salieri’s adoration of music to life, and his pain at realising that he will never be great and the one thing that he loves so much.
Amadeus is pretty much sold out until February, but you can get information about rush and £15 tickets on the National’s website here. It will also be broadcast live into cinemas on the 2nd February.