The Harry Potter generation might be forgiven for thinking that Peter Schaffer’s greatest contribution to the theatrical oeuvre was in helping Daniel Radcliffe out of his jocks in his 2007 revival of Equus at the Gielgud, but in so doing they would be diminishing the brilliance of his mighty, musical, masterpiece – Amadeus.
Also-ran composer Salieri, immortalised in an Oscar-winning performance by F Murray Abraham in the 1985 film version, played here with a glorious combination of self-loathing and swaggering arrogance by Lucian Msamati, has a gift and a curse. God has decided to imbue him with enough musical nous to be able to recognise genius, but not to possess it. Enter stage left a boarish, whiney, arrogant child-prodigy-turned fully formed genius Wolfgang AMADEUS Mozart. Salieri turns his wrath upon God – “How could this man be his instrument” – and during the next three hours he begins to plot Mozart’s death.
As seems entirely fitting in a play that celebrates musical perfection as much as condemning human frailty Michael Longhurt’s remarkable production whacks the music and it’s performance front and centre, fully incorporating the musicians into the high octane narrative. The 20-strong Southbank Sinfonia come in and out of the action in a way that feels so much more visceral than if they were up somewhere on a dais on in a pit.
I wondered initially why The National had decided to bring it back after its triumphant run in 2016… but having missed it then I’m utterly delighted that they did. A vibrant and life-affirming show that really deserves seeing.
Amadeus runs until the 24th of April 2018