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Lucien Msamati as Antonio Salieri

Lucien Msamati as Antonio Salieri

8 things you’ll love about Amadeus

First Published 27 October 2016, Last Updated 10 May 2021

Guest writer Jim Glaub went along to the press night of Amadeus at the National Theatre; here he shares his top 8 things to look out for.

Love and loathing. Envy and respect. Competition and ruin. This timeless battle of two great musicians will leave you breathless.

1. ‘Behind the music’ for the 1700s

It’s the rivalry of the century seemingly ripped out of the headlines of modern entertainment (ahem…cough, Taylor/Kanye). Peter Shaffer (Black Comedy, Equus) writes an eloquent dramatization of the life of Mozart in Vienna up to his death in 1790. However, this isn’t his story. This is the story of Salieri, the famous Italian opera composer you’ve never heard of. Salieri takes you on his journey as he battles his envy of Mozart by doing whatever it takes to ruin him. It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching tale of the plight of the modern musician and the tenacious spirit of human ambition.
In school, did you ever despise the kid who was always just a little better than you, a little smarter, a little more athletic? That was Mozart. You are Salieri.

2. The incredible acting

There’s no question you will get A+ actors in a National Theatre production directed by Michael Longhurst (Constellations), and this production doesn’t fail to deliver top notch talent. Lucian Msamati gently hands us a powerful and merciless Salieri as he battles his own demons of insufferable jealousy. He delivers the part like a composer himself; directing his body to hit the high notes, crescendos of rage, and leaves us with a bang.

Lucien Msamati as Antonio Salieri

Lucian Msamati as Antonio Salieri.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is played with perfect comedy timing by Adam Gillen (best known for his role as Liam in the ITV series Benidorm). Adam thrashes, bounces, jumps, farts, cries and laughs throughout his time onstage while breaking our hearts at the end.

Adam Gillen as Mozart in Amadeus

Adam Gillen as Mozart

Also, some of the best lines come from supporting characters like Joseph II played by Tom Eden.

Amadeus mem - I don't understand is it modern

Your Dad after you take them to see Hamilton.

3. 18th century Vienna is the new mid-century modern

Amadeus at the National Theatre

The fashion of the time was completely over the top; ruffles, big patterns and statement gowns (this was the time of Marie Antoinette!) There’s a slight modern take on some of the outfits and sets, and the romantic floral patterns are right out of this year’s Dolce and Gabanna runway show.

Doc Martens worn in Amadeus at the National Theatre

Be on the lookout for amazing choices in footwear. From 18th century heels to 1990s boots, you’ll be dazzled by the choices Costume Supervisor Poppy Hall makes to hint towards modern day rockstar.

4. The music

Amadeus is a play with music, as it should be if it’s about Mozart. You’ll hear slightly updated versions of The Marriage Of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni and many more of the classics. The musicians give a new life to the music, and make it feel as fresh as it was when it was first made.

5. You’ll think “I’d party with Mozart, he’s cool!”

He runs around like a mischievous child and brings a lightness to the stuffy royals of the time. He’s funny, and smart, but really childish. Amadeus is by no means a comedy, but his character brings humour and whimsy whenever he is on the stage.

Amadeus at the National Theatre

6. It’s the perfect play to bring your super cool South London musician friends to

This is the struggle of being a starving artist and the man that will keep you down. It’s easy to see how much Mozart had to overcome. This might be true of your friend who graduated fifteen years ago and is still trying to make it as a musician. No, I will not donate to your Kickstarter campaign to fund your next album, stop asking. Instead, see this show with me. My treat.

7. You’ll instantly Google Mozart and fall into a rabbit hole of awesome

You’ll want to immerse yourself into this rich part of musical history. The fights, the music and the man that inspired the ages. At the theatre, buy the programme and read the essay from David Owne Norris about making it in Vienna. Here’s a cool timeline they created:

Amadeus at the National Theatre programme

Also, if you can’t get enough, try some of the special talks and events around Amadeus the National Theatre puts together.
And FINALLY, if you haven’t seen it already, watch the Oscar-winning motion picture inspired by the play.

8. You’ll think “I really have to go to The National Theatre more often!”

National Theatre exterior

The National Theatre experience is fantastic.

From the moment you interact with the friendly box office staff to the fun bartenders, you’ll just love it here (they serve a pretty great glass of Cabernet). If it’s a nice night, you can step out on the terrace for a breather in the Circle Bar. The Olivier Theatre (where Amadeus is playing) is big, but still manages to feel intimate. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house.

Quick facts:

  • Amadeus is a fast-paced, feast for the eyes and ears play with music about the making of a legend and the rivalry that ruined him.
  • The duration is 3 hours including a 20-minute interval.
  • Great for students but not for younger children. Contains profanity and sexual situations.
  • Playing at the National Theatre. 2016 marks the 14th Travelex Tickets season at the National Theatre.
  • In case you miss it, Amadeus is brought to cinemas from 2 Feb 2017 at ntlive.com.
  • It’s almost sold out! Best availability in January. Get tickets here.

By Jim Glaub


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