Written by Peter Shaffer
Directed by Cate Clelland
Canberra REP production
Canberra REP theatre, Acton to 12 August
Reviewed by Len Power 28 July 2023
‘Amadeus’, a fictitious drama about the rivalry between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Austrian Court Composer of the time, Antonio Salieri, premiered in London in 1979 and was a big hit on Broadway in 1980. A subsequent film based on the play won eight Academy Awards including Best Film.
Canberra REP’s production has a cast of 16. It looks great with colourful period costumes designed by Deborah Huff-Horwood and an atmospheric set designed by the director, Cate Clelland.
The story, told in flashback by Salieri, covers the arrival at Court of Mozart. To Salieri’s horror, Mozart is foul-mouthed and foolish but also a musical genius. Salieri recognizes that Mozart’s ability is far superior to his. He feels betrayed by God and plots a deadly revenge.
The huge roles of both Salieri and Mozart dominate the play. Jim Adamik gives a towering performance as Salieri showing all aspects of this man reacting to a perceived threat to his position and blaming God for it. There is an impressive stillness at times in his performance which gives way to thunderous outpourings of emotion. This is a dangerous man to cross. His soliloquy with God at the end of the first act is memorably powerful.
Jack Shanahan is a superb Mozart. Underneath the uncouth behaviour and lack of tact in Court, Shanahan gives us a Mozart who is aware that he must control his offensive behaviour but also shows us a young man who loves life and has an extraordinary musical talent. He is most impressive and touching in his final scenes as he desperately works on his Requiem while losing touch with reality.
There is also fine work by other actors in major roles, including Neil McLeod as an amusing and doddering Joseph II, Emperor of Austria and Sienna Curnow as Mozart’s wife, Costanze. Tony Falla, David H. Bennett and Ian Russell are all highly effective as the Court officials.
Justice-Noah Malfitano and Michael J. Smith as the ‘Venticelli’ (little winds) provide the gossip on the happenings at Court. Both give skilful performances in these difficult, fast-paced roles.
The rest of the cast as Citizens of Vienna and Harriet Allen in the smaller role of opera singer, Katherina Cavalieri, all add strongly to the play’s atmosphere.
The music, recorded by Christine Faron for Mozart and Salieri to ‘play’ on stage, has been skilfully done.
Cate Clelland, the director, has given us a memorable staging of this very entertaining and thought-provoking play.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.