by Peter Shaffer.
Chichester Festival Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 2 August 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed, Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 1 Aug, 2 Aug 2.30pm.
Captioned 2 Aug 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 July.
The unfairness of life receives grand treatment.
At the end of the 1970s Amadeus – premiered at London’s Olivier Theatre in a bravura production by Peter Hall (a long-time supporter of playwright Peter Shaffer) with Paul Scofield as minor composer Antonio Salieri and Simon Callow as his slightly younger, infinitely greater and unsuccessful musical contemporary Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – continued the examination of irrational motivation for human behaviour seen earlier in the decade with Shaffer’s Equus.
Salieri is Vienna’s court composer. An ambition since his youth, he had sworn to God he would be good in return for such success. And has been, though his virtue might be another aspect of his mediocrity.
Mozart’s arrival might have been tolerable had his divine music not been accompanied by childish, scatological behaviour. The insult with this injury is the young genius’ offhand adaptation of a forgettable keyboard march the court composer wrote for him into an eternally memorable tune.
However Salieri reneges on his vow of virtue, however he plots against Mozart’s career and then life, or tries killing himself years later, he continues with outward success and the inward sense of failure. His real battle is with the God who lets Amadeus effortlessly create sounds Salieri could never, for all his striving, achieve.
Shaffer confects this amidst the philistine culture of the Viennese court, where Emperor Joseph II’s support is a lacklustre indifference and music is expected to have Salieri’s conventional tones, promoting national identity and not offending institutions.
Chichester’s thrust-stage takes-on a forward thrust in Simon Higlett’s design, with translucent screens backing the acting space, creating a huge, comfortless space matching Salieri’s inner discomfort. The only times he finds a secluded spot to sit privately he becomes an eavesdropper on Mozart.
Rupert Everett’s Salieri transforms with instant credibility between white-haired old invalid and spruce prime-of-life self. He plays continuingly on Salieri’s sense of being mocked, in one magnificent moment of Jonathan Church’s staging standing helplessly as a storm of Mozart’s manuscripts rain down on him.
Joshua McGuire is every centimetre the foul-mouthed, childishly arrogant Mozart, while Jessie Buckley shows down-to-earth affection as his wife, the sole completely sympathetic character.
Antonio Salieri: Rupert Everett.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Joshua McGuire.
Constanze Weber: Jessie Buckley.
Joseph II: Simon Jones.
Count Johann Kilian von Strack: Timothy Kightley.
Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg: John Standing.
Baron Gottfried von Swieten: Richard Clifford.
Venticelli: James Simmons, Derek Hutchinson.
Major-Domo: Jeremy Bennett.
Salieri’s Valet: Karl Moffatt.
Salieri’s Cook: Jack Edwards.
Teresa Salieri: Deborah Vale.
Katherina Cavalieri: Emily Shaw.
Kapellmeister Bonno: Trevor Jones.
Citizens of Vienna: Marc Antolin, Leon Cooke, Jessica Duncan, Stephanie Elstob., Harry Francis, Molly-May Gardiner, Dann Kharsa, Dermot McLaughlin, Natalie Woods.
Director: Jonathan Church.
Designer: Simon Higlett.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Paul Groothius.
Musical Staging: Stephen Mear.
Music Director: Matthew Scott.
Video: Ian William Galloway.
Dance captain: Marc Antolin.
Assistant director: Jonathan O’Boyle.