PETER Shaffer’s masterpiece Amadeus was first staged at the National’s Olivier theatre in 1979. Paul Scofield was court composer Salieri and Simon Callow played Mozart.
It tells the story of how Salieri, once the undisputed music king of the court, felt threatened and jealous with the arrival of the startlingly brilliant and young Mozart. So much so that he set out to destroy his rival with devastating effect.
Fast forward more than 30 years and this fantastic piece has been revived, playing out once again on the expanse of the Olivier’s stage.
This time it stars Lucian Msamati as Salieri and Adam Gillen as the child prodigy and musical genius Mozart.
Directed by Michael Longhurst this revival is a real feast for the senses - from the glittering and sumptuous 18th century inspired costumes to the treats for the ears thanks to the wonderful writing and beautiful music.
The Southbank Sinfonia provide the music, live, wearing modern day black tops and trousers or skirts and carrying their instruments with them at all times, they are integral to the story and the set and blend seamlessly into it rather than being hidden in the background.
The cast is fine throughout but it is the two central performances that shine out - much like Mozart’s gold breeches. Wearing baby pink DMs and colourful overcoats Adam Gillen’s Mozart is a man who can’t sit still - not even at his harpsichord to compose his music, which he does in the main in his head.
Shaffer paints him as a genius, a melting pot of someone constantly moving about, punky, vulgar yet vulnerable, childish, irritating and brilliant - and who knows how good he is.
This is someone with a whiney voice, who won’t conform and who annoyingly can take a piece of dull music and give it the heart and soul and lift it needs to make it sing.
And this is what Salieri, brilliantly played by Lucian Msamati can’t bear. He recognises instantly how mediocre he is compared to the natural brilliance of Mozart.
We see him first as an old man in a wheelchair in the last day of his life. He is full of remorse and anguish, and talk of how he killed Mozart.
But then he transforms himself to his younger self through which he tells the story of how they met and how he plotted his rival’s downfall.
We see how the jealousy and resentment eats away at him, railing against God for allowing Mozart, a man who beds all his female pupils, to be given the talent rather than him, a man who has stayed true to his wife and God.
It is a glorious production, full of wit and drama and reminds us of the stunning music that Mozart wrote in his all too short life.
It is a joy from start to finish, so much so that it is a real shame that Shaffer is no longer here to see it.
Amadeus is on at the National Theatre until Thursday, February 2, 2017. Tickets from £15 as part of the Travelex tickets initiative. Visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 020 7452 3000. Amadeus will be broadcast live to more than 680 cinema screens across the UK on February 2, 2017. Visit www.ntlive.com for full listings.