Thursday, July 23, 2020

'Amadeus' by Peter Shaffer

23 July 2020

We last saw Lucian Msamati on stage as Iago alongside Hugh Quarshie’s Othello in Iqbal Khan’s Royal Shakespeare Company production in Stratford-upon-Avon (reviewed here in June 2015). His Iago was brash, funny, michievous, vicious and scheming – you really couldn’t take your eyes off him.  So it was fascinating to see Lucian Msamati playing Salieri in Michael Longhurst’s National Theatre production of ‘Amadeus’ by Peter Shaffer (available this week on YouTube as part of National Theatre At Home: As Iago is a more substantial part than the title role in ‘Othello’, Salieri too is definitely the star of the show in ‘Amadeus’. While I had seen the 1984 film version directed by Miloš Forman, with Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham, I had not previously seen the original play. It’s quite different to the film and makes for a stunning theatrical experience, especially with the National Theatre production featuring a full orchestra on stage. The Southbank Sinfonia, who we previously saw integrated into the action in the National Theatre production of 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' by Tom Stoppard and André Previn (reviewed here in February 2009), play, act and dance their way through ‘Amadeus’, becoming a vital character in the story. Adam Gillan’s Mozart is an entertaining but obnoxious young genius – cheeky and scatological. But this is Lucian Msamati’s show and he is magnificent as the older, established court composer Antonio Salieri, all too aware of how he is being upstaged by his new rival. Msamati commands the vast Olivier stage and is incredibly funny. The first time we saw him on stage was alongside Lenny Henry in Dominic Cooke’s National Theatre production of ‘The Comedy of Errors’ (reviewed here in February 2012) in which I noted that Lenny Henry more often played the straight man in their comedy double act. But Lucian Msamati is more than just a comic actor: his physical acting (shifting seamlessly from the dying Salieri looking back on his life to his younger self) and his ability to twist his mood on a sixpence are equally impressive. This production of ‘Amadeus’ feels a little too long (at nearly three hours) but it’s a wonderful spectacle and Lucian Msamati is a star.

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