THE National Theatre at Home season has been the theatrical success story of lockdown, and it bows out with a spectacular flourish with this final streaming, starring Lucian Msamati on magnificent form as the tormented Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s classic play about Mozart.
Except it’s not about Mozart at all but his treacherous, scheming nemesis Salieri — the mediocre chief composer of the Austrian imperial court who, consumed with envy over the transcendent talent of the young composer, devotes his life to sabotaging him.
Framed as a death-bed confession, it’s a helluva part and Game of Thrones star Msamati delivers a performance of Shakespearean proportions, thrillingly illuminating every agonising inner thought as his Salieri blocks all the efforts of the guileless, impoverished Mozart to find financial favour with the emperor and, in doing so, destroys not just Mozart but himself.
First seen in 2016, Michael Longhurst’s production boasts the Southbank Sinfonia and captures something of the sublime beauty and restless energy that upstart Mozart launched upon the starchy Austrian establishment. Adam Gillen’s Mozart is a disrupter in every sense — a puerile, priapic brat in bleached blond hair and knickerbockers, who looks up women’s skirts and blows raspberries at the emperor and whose juvenile coarseness is in staggering contrast to his fully formed talent.
That music, fragmented renditions of which are fully integrated into the production, elevates Longhurst’s production into something truly special while at the same time serving as a source of absolute agony for Salieri, who is haunted by its unearthly beauty wherever he goes.
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