Skip to main content

4th February 2017

Review: Amadeus

London’s National Theatre comes to Manchester’s HOME, first class entertainment at a Northern price

The evening of the 2nd of February saw me take my seat, not at the National Theatre, London, but a cinema seat in Manchester’s HOME. This was a screening of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, streamed live from London brought to us by NT Live.

For those of you just as oblivious as I was when I first entered the screening, Amadeus is the story of Antonio Salieri (Lucian Msamati: Luther, Game of Thrones) a court composer and his journey with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the young prodigy (Adam Gillen) in the musical city of Vienna. Salieri grows engulfed in an obsessively jealous war between himself, God, and Mozart.

Many have had mixed opinions on Adam Gillen’s portrayal of Mozart, indeed, at times his childlike spectacles did border on the extreme, however I think this was cleverly done. The play itself is through Salieri’s eyes: the narrative, the spectacles, the characters are all illustrated and animated through and from Salieri’s memory. As the narrative moves along, the level of obsession, jealousy, and bitterness escalate in Salieri’s mind, and thus Gillen’s portrayal of Mozart seems to be predominantly highlighted by exaggerated mannerisms, faecal fantasies and a gaping mouth — they are amplified by Salieri’s hate. Only when Mozart plays does the audience see the talent, grace and majesty of what he produces. The audience are just as in awe of Mozart as Salieri is at that moment, which makes Salieri’s bitterness escalate tenfold.

There is a scene towards the end of the first act which includes the Southbank Sinfonia being conducted by Gillen’s Mozart complete with opera singers and Msamati’s Salieri crestfallen, a mere mortal below them. That, and the monologue delivered by Msamati sum up, for me, what theatre is capable of. Having lived a virtuous life and laboured incredibly hard due to his promise to God, Salieri delivers a biting and ultimately devastating monologue in which he questions his position in history and his relationship and promise with God. Being the only person capable of hearing Mozart’s talent and potential, he says that God’s voice only says one name: Mozart. “Him you’ve chosen to be our sole conduct… And my only reward, my sublime privilege is to be the sole man alive, in this time, who can clearly recognise your incarnation!” Msamati shines.

Even the name of the play, to add insult to injury, is the name of his great rival, despite Mozart not even being the main character.

The music placed itself seamlessly within the narrative, a note-perfect performance. The set was incredible and the costumes were exceptional, perfectly illustrating the characters in each state of their lives. Gillen stated that he sees Mozart as “the first in a line of innovators” and musically sees him as “radical” stating that he “would like to update that”. The minute that Gillen stepped onto the stage of Mozart you can see he is different, he stands out like a sore thumb. Flamboyant dresses in electric hues matched by the bleach blonde hair and DocMartins — a nod to music’s more recent radicals and a clever touch. Karla Crome who plays the fabulous Constanze says that Mozart is “an anarchist, socially and musically. He’s about change.” Adam Gillen’s Mozart perfectly personifies this.

I could not fault the production apart from the fact that the stream itself cut out for ten minutes part-way through the first act, the stream returned to the same scene so I can only hope that I didn’t miss too much.

Shaffer unfortunately passed away aged 90 in June, but his death marks the revival of his most popular play. Director Michael Longhurst does an exceptional job of honouring Shaffer’s memory, Longhurst’s ensemble explosion of a production comes complete with 16 actors, six singers, as well as a 20-strong Southbank Sinfonia who become fully integrated within the drama — seamlessly lacing themselves within the action. Shaffer was known for his talent of creating memorable theatrical spectacles, and Longhurst’s direction does not let his legacy down.

More Coverage

The Crown Jewels review: We are not amused

The Crown Jewels is having its regional premiere at The Lowry – but not even an all-star cast and the Queen of the West End can save this royally unfunny script

Annie review: A fab-u-lous family spectacular

Annie sweeps Manchester off its feet with song, sass, and dreams. But act fast: by ‘Tomorrow’, tickets might be gone!

Great Expectations in the Raj: In conversation with Tanika Gupta

The Mancunion spoke to playwright Tanika Gupta about her newest adaptation of Dickens’s Great Expectations – a re-imagining which casts new historical and political light on the literary classic

Review: Great Expectations

Tanika Gupta’s rendition of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations kicks off the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Autumn/Winter season with an exciting Bengali twist on a British classic