“I feel ill”.
The first words out of my mouth after the screening. “My body hurts”, cries Mozart, exhausted from poverty and his misfortune. My body, and potentially the entire audience, too, hurt from watching a tragic demise played so beautifully.
Seen through the memory of Salieri’s career and his titanic clash with a young prodigy called Mozart, Lucian Msamati plays a devilishly 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 Peter 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, with an electrifying presence by Adam Gillen that is impossible to ignore. Nothing I can say could aptly capture his performance; the sheer energy brought to the character was inspiration enough. To then channel that energy into reducing a brash Mozart with an unquenchable ego to a decrepit creature, and take the audience with you down that hideous rabbit hole, part of me thinks that another generation of actors were born thanks to Gillen.
The demise of Mozart was perhaps one of the most torturous and unbearable stage moments I’ve ever witnessed. Had Constanze (Karla Crome) not rushed to her husband’s side as he faded from existence, I’d imagine there were several audience members ready in waiting. Constanze was a character screaming for more stage time. 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 – with a few feed hiccups, I didn’t even notice the close-ups and selected frames I would ordinarily rally against. Truth be told, it was probably a blessing in disguise that I saw this in a cinema – the state I was in would have probably been amplified in the National’s auditorium, and maybe require a stretcher out.
I had to write this in a oner because I’m still on a comedown from the screening, and I can’t face spending any longer than necessary to express the experience. “My body hurts” from my inability to befriend the entire creative team, the tears I shed during the show, and how much I hate myself for relating to aspects of certain malevolent characters.