Hall's Amadeus Opens Tonight at Old VicDate: 21 October 1998
Sir Peter Hall's new production of Peter Shaffer's award-winning Amadeus opens tonight at the Old Vic Theatre, following previews from last Wednesday, 15 October. The production, starring David Suchet, has been touring the country since 8 September. It arrives at the Old Vic following engagements in Richmond, Bath, Malvern, Norwich and Sheffield.
The production appeared in jeopardy in August when a disagreement flared up between Hall and theatre producer Bill Kenwright who produces most of Hall's work including the director's repertory company now in residence at the Piccadilly Theatre. Amadeus is produced by Peter Wilson (of PW Productions) who was discussing a collaboration with Kenwright. When negotiations broke down, Kenwright asked Hall to pull out or lose Kenwright's funding elsewhere. Hall refused to abandon the project at such a late juncture and, though tempers flared publicly, the disagreement seems to have been resolved.
Now the eagerly awaited Amadeus opens at the Old Vic less than two weeks after the opening of Hall's production of Eduardo de Filippo's Filumena, starring Dame Judi Dench, opened to critical acclaim at the Piccadilly.
Set amidst the opulence and splendour of 18th century Vienna, Amadeus explores the rivalry between the composer Antonio Salieri, once exalted as the most famous composer in a city of musicians, and the young, wayward upstart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It's blazing human ambition pitted against heavenly genius, in what becomes a battle of life and death.
David Suchet leads the cast as 'Salieri'. Suchet is fresh from the Chichester Festival production of Saturday, Sunday...and Monday and appeared recently in the Almeida's West End production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Other stage credits include David Mamet's Oleanna at the Royal Court. On television, he is well known for his portrayal of Agatha Christie's Inspector Poirot.
Michael Sheen, the RSC's most recent Henry V, is the ingenue 'Mozart'. Sheen has appeared in several films, including Wilde in which he played 'Robert Ross'. Lucy Whybrow plays Mozart's wife, 'Constanze'. Others in the twenty-strong cast include Peter Blythe, Christopher Benjamin, Karl Johnson and Charles Kay.
Hall, whose repertory company was previously in residence at the Old Vic, directed the world premiere of Amadeus at the National Theatre in 1979. That original production transferred to Broadway where it ran for 1,181 performances. The current production is designed by William Dudley with lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Matt McKenzie.
In 1984, Milos Forman directed and co-scripted with Peter Shaffer a film version of Amadeus, starring Tom Hulse as 'Mozart' and F. Murray Abraham as 'Salieri', which became an international success. It won Academy Awards for both picture and script, adding to the Tony and Evening Standard Awards already won by the stage play.
Shaffer's other plays include Equus, The Royal Hunt of the Sun and The Gift of the Gorgan. His 1965 one-act farce Black Comedy is currently running as a double bill with Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound at the Comedy Theatre where it closes 31 October.