Tuesday 25 October 2016

Amadeus at the National, or, Mysteriously Famous

Note: This is a review of the preview performance on Saturday 22nd October 2016. The final preview takes place tonight with the press night tomorrow, Wednesday 26th October 2016.

This was my first encounter with this play (though I knew it by reputation). By the time the three hours was over I was puzzled as to how the work had attained that reputation.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the play, it fictionalises the relationship between Mozart and rival composer Salieri. In theory, it questions whether or not Salieri destroyed Mozart's career and finally murdered him (via the subtitle Salieri gives the piece of “Did I Do It”). Unfortunately, the play has no interest in creating any doubt on this subject. Not only is it clear from very early on that Salieri is bent on destroying him, but one could scarcely miss the processes by which he achieves this. This makes for a lack of dramatic tension. One way round this would have been if the play were to craft leading characters in say a Shakespearean mode so that one is gripped by their mental deliberations even though we are pretty clear what is finally going to happen but, as I'll explain, the play is not very effective in this regard either – or at least its effectiveness was not sufficiently put across in this performance. Pacing is also a problem, the drama moves forward too slowly, and the ending is unsatisfactorily drawn out.