The part of Salieri in Peter Schaffer’s 1979 play Amadeus must be up there as one of the meatiest and most challenging of modern playwriting history. Rarely off stage and with mental torment and sinister anguish all the way it should stretch the greatest of actors.
With the ghosts of previous great Salieri’s never far from people’s minds (Schofield, McKellen, Suchet) Rupert Everett holds his own and puts in a stonker of a performance as the tortured composer. Following his striking and beautiful performances as Oscar Wilde in The Judas Kiss recently Everett is proving himself to be far more than ever given credit for in the past.
Directed by Chichester’s own Jonathan Church and opening the newly refurbished building this is a production that has the weight of great expectation upon it and doesn’t disappoint. With stunning designs by Simon Higlett it draws you in and lays bare it’s darker underbelly.
As court composer Antonio Salieri has been held in the highest esteem for many years and is both disgusted and terrified when the young and crass Amadeus Mozart bursts onto the scene. Recognising his immense and immeasurable talent instantly he sets upon a plot to mastermind his downfall with an intense ferocity that even he has trouble dealing with. It is here that the play works so masterfully as Salieri questions everything about himself and about his God.
Almost unrecognisable as the old Salieri Everett looks back with horror on what he has done and wants to make his peace before meeting his maker. The torment is relentless as he is seemingly not allowed to do this even and simply descends into madness.
Everett doesn’t always convince but certainly makes a grand job as Salieri. Faultlessly slipping between the old and the young his lofty profile dominates the stage and resonates deliciously. Everett suffers at times from a too highly polished veneer and could sometimes do with truly showing the man beneath. He performs brilliantly but never really inhabits the role.
Joshua McGuire plays Mozart with an energetic gusto that perfectly treads the fine line between crude and loveable. The vulgarity is just enough but never fully disguises the naivety and emotional need that is sitting below the surface for this wronged genius.
Good support is given by Jessie Buckley as Mozart’s wife and by John Standing and Timothy Kightley as members of the court. Some wonderful deadpan comedy is provided by Simon Jones as the Emperor.
This is a great opening to the new theatre and to the main house season. Despite a somewhat overlong first act the second menacingly races and provides some really great drama.