Sunday, 20 July 2014


Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester


Written by Peter Shaffer
Directed by Jonathan Church

Rupert Everett as Antonio Salieri

Chichester’s newly restored Festival Theatre is sumptuously graced with chandeliers and a baroque arch. It's a lavish touch from designer Simon Higlett that sets the scene for an exhilarating production of Amadeus, Peter Shaffer's intriguing commentary upon Vienna’s Kappellmeister Antonio Salieri whose jealousy of the genius of his young contemporary Mozart tormented the Italian composer throughout his life.

This production is one of those rare trinities of excellence in writing, performance and stagecraft. Rupert Everett, barely offstage throughout, plays the tormented Salieri who we first encounter  infirm and at the end of his days, dementedly raving that his devious machinations some 35 years earlier had led to Mozart's untimely death, impoverished and racked with disease. Everett seamlessly slips between the years of his now senility and the conspiratorial times of his younger self. His is a maestro of mediocrity in a performance that carries the DNA of a latter day Francis Urquhart, cross bred with Shakespeare's Claudius and Iago. One feels no sympathy for Everett’s philanderous Latin, yet we are awed at the persona that he creates.

He has his match in Joshua McGuire's Mozart. Shaffer's research is meticulous, portraying the gifted Austrian as a scatologically obsessed immature with behavioural difficulties. McGuire captures the manic frustration of Mozart's genius, being so bafflingly snubbed at every turn, though as the narrative unfolds we see his resolve harden as he suspects Salieri as the phantom of his operas. McGuire skilfully references the complexities of Mozart’s relationship with his father and in some fabulous scenes defines his desperate, even if deceitful, love for his ever tolerant wife Constanze (another standout performance from Jessie Buckley). Alongside, Jonathan Church assembles a stellar supporting cast that includes Simon Jones who subtly suggests the well-meaning yet inept buffoonery of Austria’s Emperor Joseph II, with John Standing as his shrewd yet meddling censorious courtier Count Rosenberg.   

The re-constructed auditorium is a tribute to all that is excellent in modern theatre. The sightlines and acoustics are perfect, whilst the semi-circular thrust, stepped for this production, allows for an exciting 360° use of the space. Church draws upon a world-class team of creatives for the show. Fotini Dimou's costumes are a confection in themselves that would truly win Salieri's discerning approval, whilst Danuta Barszczewska's wig work is faultless. Amadeus is nothing without its musical backdrop and Matthew Scott’s musical direction (and wonderful fortepiano playing) together with Stephen Mear’s subtly staged choreography complete the journey back to the Age of Enlightenment.

Amadeus is, yet again, a Chichester show worthy of a London transfer or a wider tour. Church and his company provide an unmissable interpretation of one of the 20th century’s greatest English plays.

Runs until 2nd August 2014

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