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I may not know a lot about Mozart but I know what I like.......
Review of Banbury Cross Players' Amadeus by Peter Shaffer.
For their first offering of the 2010/11 season, Banbury Cross Players chose Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, the highly fictionalised story based on lives of the composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri.
To attempt this epic with its large cast on a stage of limited proportions shows ambition and courage from the Banbury Cross Players together with the creativity of the back stage team by including the use of a projector to depict the various scene changes of which there were many. The rest of the set was minimalist by any standards but credit to the director, Ann Bloor, for pulling it off despite some strange cast positioning on the odd occasion and the piano music not coming in on demand sometimes.
The play opens with Salieri as an old man speaking directly to the audience outlining his hatred of Mozart and his possible compliance in his death. This pivotable part so professionally played by Peter Bloor called for acres of dialogue to be delivered over the course of the production in one of the finest performances I have seen from an amateur actor in many years.
In flashbacks, Salieri tells of his jealousy of the young composer and his plans for his downfall though he secretly admires Mozart's compositions. Salieri first meets him in a delightful scene that lights up the whole show with Richard Oliver as the young Mozart chasing round the library his future bride Constanze Weber very well played by Rebecca Warrington. The action really now really kicks off as the pair crawl around on their hands and knees engaged in childish dirty talk with Oliver’s excellent portrayal of the boy genius owing much to Tom Hulce’s characterisation in the 1984 movie I fancy.
Throughout much of the rest of the play, Salieri pretends to be Mozart’s friend whilst trying to destroy him. In a clumsy attempt to seduce Constanze he even offers to recommend her husband for a position within the Court, something of course he has no intention of doing.
Mozart falls on hard times and into ill health. There is an impressive scene where Constanze stands pregnant. The narration says she has the baby, she turns around, and in one swift move the bump has gone and her apron becomes the baby wrapped in a blanket. Clever I thought. Another scene that merits a mention is the way the pall bearers stretchered Mozart’s lifeless body from the table and unceremoniously dumped him into a paupers mass grave. Richard Oliver must have learnt how to bounce for sure for that one. Other parts include the Emperor Josef II capably played by Paul Mead who seemed to run his Court with the simple line of ‘Well there it is’ but he at least kept the po-faced Opera Director Count Orsini-Rosenburg (Roger Riley) from ruining Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro by deleting the dancing scenes, another one of Salieri’s plots. The swine.
Although the numbers must have been a little disappointing for a Saturday night, the appreciation shown by the audience at the line-up compensated the cast who probably in turn appreciated the fact that they had endured sitting on what must be the worst theatre seats in the civilised world. Small, hard and no leg room. One lady took to sitting on the aisle steps rather than experience the torture of her allotted seat any longer. I can’t say I blame her.
However this shouldn’t detract from this excellent and enjoyable production, another hit for the Banbury Cross Players? Oh yes.
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