[pix_dropcap]I[/pix_dropcap] was very much looking forward to viewing the National Theatre’s production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, reprised to remember the author Peter Shaffer who joined the club of celebrities who died in 2016 last June. The production boasts rave reviews and all critics concur in their judgment of Lucian Msamati as a wonderful Salieri, the lead character. I thoroughly enjoyed the production directed by Michael Longhurst, it was all wonderfully orchestrated and the presence of the musicians performing excerpts of Mozart’s music on stage just added to the enjoyment.
The orchestration, the costumes, the music, the singing were all top quality but inevitably the production would run into trouble when confronted with Miloš Forman’s masterpiece, the film version of the play, still very much alive in my mind. I was pleased with Adam Gillen’s portrayal of Mozart, very much inspired by Tom Hulce’s irreverent version, but adding a touch of desperate, dangerous, Johnny Rotten’s punk impudent attitude, accessorized with bleached spiky hair and pink bovver boots, most apt for a play performed in London after all. But from where I sat Lucian Msamati’s performance could only fall flat when pitched against the perfection, subtlety and evil portrayal on screen by F. Murray Abraham.
The play is indeed portraying Salieri’s rage at God for making him, a perfectly virtuous human being, the personification of mediocrity, while God would express his music through the childlike, outrageous, disgusting Mozart. And Msamati is extremely good in expressing that anger but his performance in my eyes was a touch too demonstrative, at times overblown. It did not help that he was constantly raging in Italian and to my Italian years, his attempts at speaking the language were laudable, but unconvincing and even painful to hear.
18 January 2017: Amadeus, National Theatre, London