Razz writer Dan Squire found out what we can expect from EUTCO’s upcoming Amadeus…
When I first found out I was going to be writing a preview of Amadeus for Razz, I was thrilled. Not only is this EUTCO’s biggest show, and the first at the Northcott this year, but beyond that, Peter Shaffer’s play itself is brilliant.
I had seen the Hollywood adaptation, and I was interested to see how this production would compare. How would it deal with the logistics of staging such a large project, and how would it put its own stamp on the show? So I was very excited to talk to the director, Josh Lucas.
What attracted you towards Amadeus, and what made you want to direct it? How did the extravagant costumes and set factor into that decision?
What first got me interested in the play was the music. I remember seeing a 6th form production of it when I was about 17, and most of the show wasn’t anything special but I remember vividly the scene where the massive opening chords of Don Giovanni crash over the action – the potential that this could then have when put in the Northcott, especially with the possibility of having live music as part of the production, was far too exciting to not go for. The scale of the production then became interesting because it provided an opportunity to create these vibrant ensemble scenes and create the city as a living breathing organism.
How has the process been so far? Have you encountered any problems?
The main issues have been logistical ones: having a cast of 27 makes things complicated – but then the size of that cast and the importance of the ensemble is what makes this production really special and different. Other than that it’s largely just been a matter of having to work within the constraints of being a student production – we don’t have the budget of The National so we work with what we’ve got. However rather than this being constraining as a director I’ve found that whenever you’re pushed by such things, you actually often come to better end results than you would do if you just had free rein to do the first thing you thought of.
In what ways does this production put its own stamp on the play?
In terms of changes, there are plenty – Shaffer’s script only really has 9 roles in the entirety of it – I decided that I wanted to adapt it, creating the large scale ensemble scenes which are in the production now. This was partly from a pragmatic level of wanting to involve more people in the production, but it was also a matter of exploring the idea that the travails of Salieri, Mozart and Constanze affect not only their direct circles of contact, but also have ripples in society as a whole. It’s almost as if as Mozart and Salieri slowly drag each other down, the city becomes dark and bleak around them. This not only echoes the history of the period, but also expresses this idea that the music of Mozart is the heartbeat of the city and when he dies nothing else will remain but the memory of his music.I also wanted to expand the use of music in the production, adding new scenes entirely and re-introducing the staging of the operas in the play. At its heart, all of the changes I’ve made come back to this love of music, and how it’s this which is eternal, it’s this that lasts. If there’s a God, then it is in music – basically it’s a love-letter from me to music.
Dan was also lucky enough to get an exclusive glimpse and watch a rehearsal of the play…
Even though the characters were not in costume and the set was still bare, the quality of the piece already stood out. The portrayal of Salieri by George Watkins was excellently engaging, especially for such an early stage of rehearsal, mirrored by a moving performance from Ryan Whittle as Mozart. Constanze was played successfully by Felicity Cant, and excellent comic relief came from the members of the Austrian court played by Michael Smith, Sam Rix, and David Johnson and Luca Owenbridge.The scene from Don Giovanni was already forceful with the music played sporadically through small speakers, but at the public performances with a live orchestra and full costume I expect it will be awe-inspiring.
Dan could only judge the performance from the dress rehearsal, but there’s one person who can picture exactly what it will look like in full costume. Razz’s own Creative Editor is moonlighting as the Amadeus Costume Manager! So we thought we’d see what she had to say….
Since November of 2012, the Costume team and I have been spending sleepless nights thinking of the rivalling composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri who dominate Shaffer’s ‘Amadeus’. We wake up in terrible 3am sweat with images of Salieri’s six-foot figure looming, Mozart’s shrill laughter, or most common of all, thinking with a costume team’s despair: “Why, did they have to wear WIGS??” As with all daring projects, such insomnia-producing madness lies dangerously close to their core, and with a twenty seven strong cast, live music, Choral Society choir dances and late 18th century Opera scenes, most would call EUTCo’s ‘Amadeus’ such. From a production point of view, it is a tightly run ship of organisational wonder: Tech, Sound and Lighting, Publicity, Directors, Producers, Costumes, Props and not to mention, actors push our crew numbers to above fifty, and let me tell you, co-ordination is no walk in the park.
Yet what makes a challenge such as this worth the stress, time, effort and moments of insanity, is just ten minutes in Director Josh Lucas and his cast’s creation of 18th century Vienna. Shown through Salieri’s gripping tale of intense religious devotion, craving for musical inspiration, and desperation of a composer in the Venetian court, is the complicated intertwining of the everyday and the divine. Watkins’ performance is filled with powerful, engaging jealousy; Whittle’s brilliantly charming Mozart is childish and dangerous; Constanze’s (Felicity Cant) devotion to Mozart both delicate and overwhelmingly raw. Last week’s run through of the play left me heart pounding and with a burning adrenaline for the opening night. There could be no other way to end this post other than: go see it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
6th-9th February 2013 (inclusive), 7.30pm at Exeter Northcott Theatre.
Student ticket £8, Adult ticket £14.
You can buy tickets online on the Northcott website here.
Written for Razz by Dan Squire and Charlotte Black.
Photos by Joshua Irwandi.