“And I became a saint – the saint of mediocrity”.
So speaks Antoni Salieri, the tragic anti-hero of Amadeus, which has been fantastically brought to stage at the Burton Taylor Studio this week. It’s already sold out, but beg or borrow a ticket if you can – this is an unmissable show.
Amadeus follows the story of Mozart’s rise and fall at the Viennese court through the eyes of Salieri, the king’s favourite musician. Using a series of flashbacks, beginning with Mozart’s arrival, we see how Salieri slowly begins to understand the extent of his rival’s genius, even as Mozart descends deeper and deeper into a spiral of poverty and madness. In the moments between, we get see Salieri as he is “now”, several decades on, an old man who mutters about murder and sees creatures in the shadows.
It is Stan Carrodus’ Salieri who dominates the show. In the hands of a less talented actor, the role – and incredibly challenging one – would crumble, but Carrodus does a fantastic job of presenting the narrator’s complicated nature, switching effortlessly from the composed Salieri of the past to the half-crazed man speaking to his audience. Even in the longest monologues, he maintains an enviable stage presence.
Chris Page, as Mozart, is a perfect foil, again managing to strike the fine balance between the madness and genuine genius that the character demands. Between them, Page, Carrodus and Imogen Allen (who plays Constanze, Mozart’s wife) deftly handle some incredibly challenging script, helped along by a solid supporting cast.
There has been some real thought put into how to use the BT to tell this story, and certain moments (such as the concerts, where Mozart conducts into the audience and we watch the cast as if they are themselves an audience), are particularly striking in this smaller space. In some respects, it feels as if Amadeus could easily have outgrown the BT in favour of a larger theatre, but overall the intimacy works well, and helps to add to the sense of claustrophobia as Salieri’s world draws in on him.
The cast and crew of Amadeus have done a fantastic job of bringing the play to stage. Whether you have an interest in classical music or not, this is an impactful, engaging and ultimately moving performance – good luck finding a ticket.