REVIEW: Amadeus (Auckland Theatre Company)

Review by Lauren Sanderson

Amadeus - Peter Shaffer; dir Oliver Driver; Auckland Theatre Company production; photographs Michael Smith

[Mozart Lives]

Peter Shaffer’s award-winning play Amadeus is not new to either stage or screen, having first been performed in 1979 and later adapted into a film in 1984. Don’t expect a period drama in Auckland Theatre Company’s production; Director Oliver Driver gives the play a new life, adding a modern contemporary twist when resurrecting Mozart’s music.

It’s essentially a play about the power of jealousy. Court composer Antonio Salieri (Michael Hurst) is trapped within the conviction that he should have been blessed with musical genius. He becomes consumed with jealousy when meeting the multi-talented naive Mozart (Ross McCormack). Salieri uses his social standing to destroy Mozart and in turn destroys himself by his own action and obsession.

Although the story behind the play is purely fictional, it is a very convincing and plausible tale. All credit goes to Peter Shaffer’s incredible imagination.

The powerful production wouldn’t have been such a success without its ‘dream team’ cast. The master of the piece is legendary theatre actor Michael Hurst, who crafted the old and broken Salieri so perfectly. Dancer and Choreographer Ross McCormack made his acting debut as the gifted Mozart. His portrayal of Mozart is fascinating as he brings a unique quirky aspect to the character. He danced his way through the role with ease, bringing humour, naivety and power to a person that was once known as a serious classical conductor. He cleverly weaves Mozart’s deeply emotional yet sophisticated talent throughout his captivating physical movement.

Bryon Coll added a sparkle of colourful camp as the flamboyant King Joseph, and Morgana O’Reilly delivers a humorous performance, bringing a whole lot of soul to Mozart’s wife Constanze.

The voice behind the exhilarating piece is Opera super star Madison Nonoa who plays Katherina Cavalieri, the pupil of Salieri. Her stunning soprano paired with her striking red attire captivates the entire theatre. To think her role was originally silent – we’re glad this wasn’t the case in this adaptation.

Set Designer Ella Mizrahi left the audience in awe as she transforms the ASB stage into a surreal dream-scape. Her boldly creative set consists of thousands of crumpled up music scores scattered across the stage, creating a suffocating world for Salieri to be lost within, emphasising the fact he will never escape his guilt.

Mozart’s music was front and centre, as unlike other theatre productions where the musicians are usually nowhere to be seen, the eleven talented instrumentalists are cleverly featured on set throughout the entire performance.

Leon Radojkovoc’s contemporary score is filled with modern-day instruments, combining the classics of Mozart with electronic grunge, highlighting what Mozart’s music might have sounded like if he was composing in the 21st Century.

Now, there’s an interesting thought!

Amadeus plays at the ASB Waterfront Theatre until 20 May. Details see ATC.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Michael Hooper

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