“It’s easy to be friends with a jackass” – says Amadeus during the first act. But is it? Does the (fictionalised) story of the downfall of a beloved music creator carry the emotional load needed for the audience to immerse themselves in the story? Surprisingly modern Mozart wears leopard print trousers and speaks in today’s lingo, but is showcased as a crazy, odd man – is this enough for the audience to cheer for him? The 3-hour play gives some answers. It’s an engaging story, and one not just intended for Mozart’s fans – but also anyone who enjoys a complex intrigue and a “fight for power” kind of drama.
Although the show is named after Mozart, Sedos’ vivid revival tells the story of the rival composer Antonio Salieri, who was extremely jealous of Mozart’s popularity. In case you’ve never seen the 1984 Miloš Forman’s film or its stage adaptation by Peter Shaffer, here’s a short summary:
In Vienna – a city full of musicians, Antonio Salieri is the most renowned composer, that is until Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart enters the scene. In jealousy of Mozart’s musical talent, Salieri plots his destruction. He befriends Mozart and pretends to help him, but all the time he plots to remove Mozart from prominence.
Salieri cannot believe that God has given Mozart these skills, and not him. He makes a final plea to God in the first act – that he would live a good life if God would give him the talent to be a great musician in return. He gets more and more frustrated as Mozart, a young prodigy, raises to fame and starts to outshine him in the eyes of the public and royals.
To undermine Mozart’s reputation as a great composer, Salieri uses non-virtuous means. He realises that by destroying Mozart, he is eliminating a musical genius, which makes this task heartbreaking – we watch him cry and almost regret his actions, every time Mozart gets hit by a well-crafted intrigue.
Salieri is an extremely demanding role – and Chris de Pury did his best on the stage, to pull it off. There’s a mix of emotional drama, bitterness and pain in this part, and de Pury believably delivered all of those. He performed the impressively long monologues with impeccable articulation yet tended to hit quite loud notes at times of an emotional breakdown – maybe slightly too loud for a small venue like the Bridewell Theatre.
His portrayal of a “younger” Salieri was definitely a bit more polished than the “older” one – I enjoyed the occasional puns and the expressions he served while delivering a variety of emotional states. The “older” Salieri seemed less believable – as a man on his deathbed, I found the choice of movement to be way too energetic and just not fully matching the situation. Maybe a bed or a wheelchair would be more matching in such a situation?
Alex Johnston as Mozart is cast perfectly. He radiates the energy from the first moment he runs into the stage – jumps on top and under the piano, dances, and brings authentic child-like energy. I quite liked the mental and physical change Johnston visibly portrayed – as the show progresses and Mozart gets poorer and sadder (maybe even depressed in his way), it was all shown tactfully and realistically.
Jamila Jennings-Grant as Mozart’s wife had some fabulous stage presence, and rocked a surprising choice of outfit in her first scenes (leggings and a half-skirt? Even in such an unusual outfit, she was radiating royal vibes). She carefully crafted a strong female character who balances keeping up with her equally crazy husband and managing the worsening reality.
I have to say, for a show about music composers, I was disappointed with the amount of live music. The lack of a live band/orchestra was strongly felt – the recordings just did not deliver the impact. I have to admit, however, the opera singing was thoroughly enjoyable and helped elevate the otherwise not-so-music-heavy show.
The mix of classic/historical motifs in the outfits and stage movement during the show was unorthodox and entertaining. One such scene that was specially delivered was the ball, complete with a very today’s choreography and an array of colourful lights.
Costumes were carefully executed, with classic dresses and suits. The outfits also changed with time, as the character’s fate progressed. They marked the deterioration of Mozart’s well-being and wealth, symbolised by plain, greyish clothes with just a stripe of leo print left. Fabulous work here, by Callum Anderson on costume design and Jobina Hardy on hair and make-up.
I had some issues with the length of the play – it’s 2 acts of a total and almost 3 hours of runtime. As much as I enjoyed the story, I did feel it could have been turned into a slightly shorter play, without any harm to the script. Some of the monologues were staged too statically and just dragged for way too long.
To sum up, “it’s the play “Amadeus” is a creative stab at the story of Mozart. It’s an impressively large-scale production for an amateur theatre company, with outstanding performances by the lead actors. But if you’re interested in seeing it, just make sure you’re aware of its longer-than-usual run time!
Sedos, Bridewell Theatre
23 November – 3 December 2022
ANTONIO SALIERI | Chris de Pury
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART | Alex Johnston
CONSTANZE MOZART | Jamila Jennings-Grant
JOSEPH II, EMPEROR OF AUSTRIA | Adam Moulder
ORSINI-ROSENBERG | Hannah Roberts
VAN SWIETEN | Paul Caira
VON STRACK | Alison Du Cane
KATHERINA CAVALIERI | Holli Farr
VENTICELLI | Christian Brunskill, Jessica Dawes, Jacob Hajjar, Emily Hassan
CITIZENS OF VIENNA | Sophie Goodman, Antonia Kasoulidou, Andy Lee (soloist), Dave McGroarty
DIRECTOR | Matt Gould
PRODUCER | Pippa Kyle
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR | Dan Edge
LIGHTING DESIGNER | Olly Levett
SOUND DESIGNER | Adrian Jeakins
SET DESIGNER AND BUILDER | Steven King
COSTUME DESIGNER | Callum Anderson
HAIR AND MAKE-UP | Jobina Hardy
STAGE MANAGER | Andrew Laidlaw
PROPS | Shiri Stern
OPERA CONSULTANT | Charlotte Richardson
MARKETING | Stephen Beeny
PHOTOGRAPHER | David Ovenden