[Marc Brenner Photography]
“Goodness is nothing in the furnace of art.”
Mozart, barely known, has arrived in the music capital of the world: Vienna. Court composer, Salieri, is faced with a dangerous choice: to promote his talent like he has done with many other composers, or destroy his name.
Back to 2017…
Seen through the memory of Salieri’s career and his titanic clash with a young prodigy called Mozart, Lucian Msamati plays a vicious court composer, with an axe to grind and a heavy conscience. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Msamati’s performance lies in his ability to draw you into each moment, only to pull the ground out from underneath you. While absolutely the craft of Schaffer‘s writing, any potential for a change in Salieri’s mindset towards Mozart is compounded by Msamati’s skill in snapping back into Salieri’s scheme: taking Mozart down.
Enter the prodigy: a bleach-haired, pink DMs-wearing Mozart (Adam Gillen), an electrifying presence that is impossible to ignore. The energy of a mischievous toddler, the unpredictability of an ignored genius – to then channel that energy into reducing a brash Mozart with an unquenchable ego to a decrepit creature is as thrilling to watch as it is exhausting. Part of me thinks that another generation of actors were born thanks to Gillen’s peformance.
The demise of Mozart was perhaps one of the most torturous and unbearable stage moments I’ve ever witnessed, only abetted by Constanze (Karla Crome) rushing to her husband’s side as he faded from existence. Constanze was a character screaming for more stage time, too. Crome’s frank delivery provided the only air of reality any part of this play has to offer; a brutal honesty that, for all the semantics and melodrama the men throw at each other, reverberates throughout the auditorium.
As far as encore screenings go, this is easily the most impressive – I barely noticed the close-ups and selected frames I would ordinarily rally against, and I believe it was down to the chaotic, almost rave-like production. With a live orchestra (Southbank Sinfonia) invariably playing their music in motion, and Mozart in the middle of it directing the mayhem, this is one of the few times that the camera-work enabled that sense of chaos.