29 October 2018

Amadeus Definitely Worth Re-Visiting


Amadeus by Peter Shaffer came to an end last Sunday after a highly-successful run at Teatru Manoel, Malta's National Theatre.

A massive well done and thanks go to the team behind this production. We would like like to thank your our punters who packed Teatru Manoel, for their support, appreciation (and standing ovations).

Here's what Maxine Brimmer had to say about Amadeus in The Times of Malta, Sunday 28th October edition:

"Peter Schaffer’s masterwork Amadeus was once again brought to life on stage at the Manoel Theatre by Masquerade. Following the company’s acclaimed previous staging in 2002, this iteration, directed by Stephen Oliver, had some big shoes to fill in the eyes of the Maltese theatre-going public.

In re-staging a popular production, even one last seen 16 years ago, there is always some fear that familiar paths will be taken. Is there any point, you might ask, in reviving a play which is remembered so fondly by those that attended it? To my mind: yes!

Although I have complained in the past that certain segments of the local theatre scene are rife with rehashes of the same old material, I don’t think that critique applies to a play that still holds as much emotion and weight as Amadeus. Though it originally debuted in 1979, Schaffer’s tale of all-consuming jealousy and legacy has not yet “survived to see itself extinct”, and this particular production found its own feet without unnecessary influence from its predecessor.

To tell the truth, this has been one of my favourite plays ever since I caught the 2002 production. So, I was excited to catch the new production – even more so knowing that it would be a return to the stage for Manuel Cauchi in the central role as Antonio Salieri.

This truly is one of those plays that can be made or unmade by a single actor, but I knew from the second that Cauchi’s transition from the ailing, older Salieri to the memory of his younger self that we were in good hands.

Watching Cauchi grapple with Salieri’s long-held feelings of envy, rage and doubt over the course of the show was worth the price of admission in and of itself.

Make no mistake – this is no jaunty one act. In the wrong hands, a three-hour play can seem like a bit of a slog, but Cauchi’s captivating performance held my attention from start to finish.

Not an easy job, considering he is barely off stage for more than a couple of minutes over the course of the performance. In fact, it was only when the attention shifted off Salieri that the pacing of the show took a few dips.

Not so of Thomas Camilleri, though, playing the titular role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As the doomed boyish composer, Camilleri is always bursting with energy, counterbalancing Cauchi’s gravitas with his own levity.

Though this role is often most remembered for the sheer absurd childishness of Mozart’s early behaviour, I found that Camilleri’s performance truly hit its stride in the play’s later scenes, portraying the composer’s tragic decline. Somewhat detracting from the pathos of this decline, I felt, was the use of projected images as part of the backdrop.

While the choice of set (designed by Romualdo Moretti) was an interesting mix of classic and modern, realistic and whimsical, I couldn’t help but find myself distracted by the projections during certain key scenes.

At times, the projections and their very noticeable transitions managed to upstage the action of the scenes, rather than underscore it. Nothing makes the image of death less foreboding than seeing the Grim Reaper shuffle in and out of a scene via PowerPoint presentation transitions.

However, some technical hiccups aside, I do feel that Oliver’s production is a strong one, benefitting hugely from the strong casting among its leads.

Monique Dimech Genuis is energetic and charming as Mozart’s naive and similarly childish wife, Constanza, and The Venticelli (Victor Debono and Stephen Mintoff) always brought an air of intrigue to the stage. Highly enjoyable also was Michael Mangion’s foppish portrayal of the rather ineffectual Emperor Joseph, who lifted up the somewhat lacking energy in the royal court.

Overall, a strong return to the stage for both this beloved play and its lead actor.

I’m so very glad to get to say that I’ve been lucky enough to see both of Masquerade’s iterations – if there’s another call for it in a decade or so, do let me know. Until then, I’ll be humming the Magic Flute for the foreseeable future."

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