Olivier Theatre, National, London

Review - Amadeus starring Lucian Msmati returns to the National Theatre

Our critics rating: 
Friday, 19 January, 2018
Review by: 

At the core of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, which is fuelled by rabid envy and beautiful music, are two gargantuan roles, supremely revived as Michael Longhurst’s 2016 production returns to the Olivier.

Antonio Sallieri, at one point the toast of Vienna’s music scene, sits in a wheelchair on his deathbed to tell the story of how he became overcome with obsession for a young Wolfgang Mozart. It was as if his talent for composing was sent directly from God, but his infantile manner made him undeserving of it. Sallieri, who wants nothing more than fame and glory, bellows to God of the injustice of giving Mozart - a crass adolescent who has done good for no other man - this gift of art. 

Adam Gillen’s Mozart sports pink Doc Martens as he scurries around the stage draped in lavish coats, pulling arena rockstar poses; dabbing Johnny Rotten of Classical Vienna. He hits the ground running in the first act in a performance so energetic, he single-handedly delivers a whole different level to the production. He’s arrogant he proclaims he is the greatest musician in Vienna, but it’s difficult to disagree with him. He’s cocky, absurd, but likeable. 

Sallieri (a role reprised by Lucian Msmati) gets his way with the German, ever scheming and plotting against the young virtuoso as he makes his way to the top of the musical hierarchy. Sallieri is now draped in gold as Mozart, forced to produce music for the drunks rather than royalty, is reduced to rags and madness. 

The soundtrack for the performance, which features (as you’d expect) some of Mozart’s most recognisable motifs, is provided by the Southbank Sinfonia who flow with the production. They cut shapes at a New Year’s Eve party and chase characters around the stage with instruments in hand. By not merely having the instrumentalists seen on stage, but embedded in the thick of the action, it helps put the music centre stage. 

They are involved, too, in some of Michael Longhurst’s moments of heightened theatre. At times subtle, at times epic, it’s an unrelenting production. Credit to Chloe Lamford’s sumptuous designs which create some exuberant costumes, and Jon Clark’s atmospheric lighting. 

Msmati’s is controlled and convicted as the piece’s narrator and, effectively, villain. Your disdain for Sallieri creeps up on you throughout the play, which is credit to his performance. The chemistry between him and Gillen make this a production not to miss. 

Amadeus is in the Olivier at the National Theatre until 24th April. 

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