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Revenge of Mediocrity

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

Peter Shaffer passed away in June last year, so he did not see National Theatre’s splendid new production of one of his most famous plays 'Amadeus'.

The highly acclaimed and awarded play was also turned into an Oscar-winning film by Milos Forman in 1984, not long after its first production in 1979. It is a fictionalised account of the supposed rivalry between the two composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. What Shaffer did is intensified a mediocre Salieri’s jealousy towards the genius of Mozart, which led to the latter’s premature death. Salieri is so affected by the talent of the young and badly-behaved Mozart that he uses his power as the court composer to plot his rival’s downfall, so that he dies ill and in penury at the age of 35.

A devout Salieri is so incensed at the musical gift that God has bestowed on an undeserving man, that he decides to do everything in his power to destroy Mozart as a challenge to the Creator. Mozart is a simpering, giggling, juvenile, but one who can write astounding compositions without having to make corrections—from his mind to the page, so to say; he never has to struggle to create beautiful music.

In the new production directed by Michael Longhurst, Lucian Msamati plays a devious yet pathetic Salieri, who understands at last that in spite of his fame and wealth he is a mediocre composer who will be forgotten, while Mozart’s (Adam Gillen) music will live on forever.

Apart from the outstanding performance by Msamati, and the imaginative production design, a highlight of the play is the live music played by the Southbank Sinfonia.

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