Review: Peter Shaffer's AMADEUS at the National Theatre, Olivier

If you've heard anything about landmark plays from the National Theatre then you will have definitely heard about Peter Shaffer's 1979 play Amadeus which hit the West End and Broadway after its premiere run at the National, even winning itself a Tony for Best New Play. Now, almost 40 years later, a new production is back at the National and it's as glamorous and lavish as ever.

The story of Amadeus is a rather interesting one, especially if you enjoy music. The story is told retrospectively by Salieri (played by Lucian Msamati) and looks at Mozart's rise to fame and how he eventually came to overshadow Salieri's experience and success at such a young age. We see how Salieri dealt with this and the kind of turmoil that it drove him into, and also shows us Mozart's demise and how he eventually came to his death. The story is fascinating and this production encapsulates the style and flair for the time period beautifully making it one of the most authentic and affecting period plays I've seen in a long while.

Lucian Msamati and the full orchestra of Amadeus

The story is slightly on the longer side though and is perhaps, in my opinion, the weakest part of the piece. The play runs at around three hours in duration and at times, it feels like the play would be so much more accessible and enjoyable if it was about half-an-hour shorter in length. There are many moments where scenes or gags tend to continue for so long that I just lose interest and start to get a bit fidgety in my seat, which is a shame considering the production is so stunning. Nonetheless, the previous successes of this play show that this is a small problem that perhaps only I see in the play, but it's worth noting.

To make a play like this successful, it needs to be backed with a fantastic cast and a fantastic cast this show has indeed. Lucian Msamati is truly fantastic as Salieri and is both hilarious and cold in a blend that not many actors can balance. When he walks onto the stage, he just has that glow around him that makes him the star of the show and it is a joy to watch. Adam Gillen also makes a wonderful Mozart and while his character is meant to be suitably annoying and hyperactive in a way to irritate Salieri, there was something about his boyish charm that made me not want to hate him. Karla Crome was also one of my favourite members of the cast as a wonderful Constanze Mozart, as well as the iconic Hugh Sachs as Count Franz.

Karla Crome shines as Constanze Mozart in Amadeus

The visuals of this production are perhaps the best part of the show. Chloe Lamford's set design is a perfect blend of minimal and period in a way that makes this piece feel like a modern interpretation of how period plays can be staged and I loved it. Her set design mixed with Jon Clark's lighting design, as you can see from the image at the top of this review, make a wonderful blend. Michael Longhurst's decision to perform the play with a full orchestra performing Mozart's works to accent certain scenes, in tandem with a full ensemble, was fantastic and definitely made this piece into a much more interesting and unique piece of storytelling than it would've been without.

Mozart directs one of his earliest operas in the first act of Amadeus

Shaffer's Amadeus isn't the most exciting tale you'll ever see on stage, but it is most certainly a staple revival in the National Theatre's latest belt of shows and is not one to be missed. Whether it's the cast you're attracted to, the stunning design or just the iconic story in general, there's something here to satisfy everyone who dares to see it.

Amadeus continues its sold out run at the National Theatre, Olivier through March 18th. Tickets are available via the £20 Friday rush scheme, or you can check local listings for the show's upcoming NTLive screening on February 2nd.

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