Tuesday, August 1, 2023

AMADEUS - Canberra Repertory Society.

Michael J.Smith (Venticelli 1)- Justice-Noah Malfitano (Venticelli 2)  - Jim Adamik (Salieri)
in  "Amadeus"


Written by Peter Shaffer

Directed by Cate Clelland - Set Designed by Cate Clelland

Costumes designed by Deborah Huff-Horwood  - Lighting designed by Nathan Sciberras

Sound Design by Neville Pye - Properties by Brenton Warren.

Canberra Rep Theatre: July 27th to August 12th 2023.

Performance on 29th July reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

Shaffer’s play in which he imagines the relationship between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and rival court composer, Antonio Salieri, has divided scholars ever since it was first performed in 1979.

Whatever the accuracy of Shaffer’s imaginings however, the play, which has had several revisions since it was first performed, provides a gift for a lead actor cast in the role of Salieri, because the play, as opposed to the film, focusses its attention on Salieri.

Jim Adamik as Antonio Salieri

Canberra Rep is fortunate in having at its disposal an actor as accomplished as Jim Adamik, who, under the astute direction of Cate Clelland, rises to the challenge with a performance of this role that is at all times riveting, nuanced and memorable. His control of pacing, phrasing and articulation is masterly.

As the play begins, Salieri is discovered in his library, brooding over the success of Mozart. Mozart is already dead and Salieri claims responsibility for poisoning Mozart to protect his own reputation.  

The play then flashes back to their first meeting. Though irritated by Mozart’s abrasive personality, Salieri immediately recognises his extraordinary talent as superior to his own, and so, to protect his own career, vows to destroy Mozart’s.

Having cast Adamik as Salieri, Clelland surrounded him with a strong cast of experienced character actors in Neil McLeod as Emperor Joseph 11, and David Bennett, Tony Falla and Ian Russell as senior members of the Emperor’s court; with Justice-Noah Malfitano and Michael J. Smith in two eye-catching roles as the gossipy ‘Venticelli’. 


David Bennett (Count Johann Killian von Strack - Neil McLeod (Joseph 11, Emperor of Austria)
Tony Falla (Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg) - Jack Shanahan (background) Mozart.


Rising young actor, Jack Shanahan captivated with his stylish performance as the irritating, potty-mouthed Mozart, while Sienna Curnow was also impressive as Mozart’s wife, Constanze, particularly with her sensitively interpreted responses in the scene in which Constanze is cruelly propositioned and blackmailed by Salieri.

Siena Curnow (Constanze Weber, wife of Mozart) - Jack Shanahan (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

Clelland’s stylish abstract set design encompassed the entire width and depth of the Rep Theatre stage, enhanced by attractive slide projections which effectively indicated changes of time and locale, and an atmospheric lighting design by Nathan Sciberras which made imaginative use of silhouette.

Complimenting Clelland’s abstract setting, Deborah Huff-Horwood’s delightfully transgressive costume designs added colour and pizzazz to the stage pictures, although their execution was variable; particularly for the dressing gown worn by Salieri in the opening and closing scenes, which was so crushed (or poorly sewn) as to become a distraction.  

It was a master-stroke to persuade 18th Century keyboard specialist, Christine Farron to provide authenticity by recording the music which Mozart and Salieri perform on stage, although Shanahan, as Mozart, still has some work to do on his conducting technique.

Despite the extended running time, 3 hours and 10 minutes at this performance, Canberra Rep’s production of “Amadeus” provides one of the highlights of its year so far, and as such, is highly recommended.


                                                  Images by Karina Hudson