Review of Loft Theatre Company production of Amadeus (2010)

In terms of stage spectacle, this is a remarkable achievement by a local theatre.

A dazzling, ornate world of 18th century Vienna is created in deceptively simple set designs and back-projected images of Baroque art, which have been assembled to provide an extraordinary visual opulence.

At this level, director Gordon Vallins has succeeded in establishing a splendid framework for Peter Shaffer’s award-winning play, which already embodies, by its very context, the mighty music of Mozart.

The challenge then lies in creating the classic conflict between the young upstart musical genius and his older, less inspired rival, the court composer Salieri.

This is where the writer has thrown down the gauntlet to any interpreters of his speculated theme of murder provoked by psychological torment and intense jealousy. Here it is played as a lengthy tour-de-force, with an obsessive, smouldering Salieri scheming against his wildly giggling nemesis.

The production’s level of commitment cannot be denied, but its tone is too reverential and at times it is painfully slow. Elements of humour which punctuated the original have been lost – whether in Peter Shaffer’s many rewrites or through this version being over-cautious is not clear.

Bob Harper’s Salieri is a formidable theatrical figure but his monologue at the beginning ranges between Ebenezer Scrooge and high-pitched Italian caricature. As his rollercoaster emotions are revealed, he quickly assumes a powerful, commanding and reflective presence.

Alex Comer tackles the manic Mozart with initial uncertainty but grows considerably and, ironically, is at his best in the quieter moments. Emmeline Braefield makes a striking Loft debut as his playful and passionate young wife.

Ultimately it is a bold endeavour, but whether the play retains its earlier impact is open to debate.

Peter McGarry

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Independent reviews by Peter McGarry

Peter McGarry is an experienced, independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to review Loft Theatre Company productions.

The agreement with the Loft is that Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The Loft Theatre Company has no control whatsoever over the content of these reviews and will never comment publicly on what he writes.