The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

18/05/2013 - 15/06/2013

Production Details


Never underestimate the power of music – or jealousy.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is the greatest musical genius the world has ever known – God’s instrument on earth.  To Antonio Salieri, he is also a vulgar buffoon, a rival and an enemy to be destroyed.  

The Court Theatre is thrilled to present Amadeus:  a sensational costume drama set in opulent 18th century Vienna.  Written by Peter Shaffer, Amadeus features John Bach (Lord of the Rings & Goodbye Pork Pie) as Salieri and Guy Langford as Mozart.

This will be Langford’s first lead role since returning from 2 years training at Paris’ prestigious international theatre school École Philippe Gaulier.  Gaulier is a master teacher of European theatre whose students have included Emma Thompson, Sasha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush. “My time with Philippe was one of the most terrifying and exhilarating experiences.”

During his time in Europe, Langford retraced the steps of young Mozart travelling to London, Prague, Berlin and Vienna.  “I toured the Palace of Schönbrunn, ate schnitzel and witnessed hundreds of men dressed as Mozart as they handed out flyers for their shows.  Little did I know that I’d be playing the role of Mozart in the very near future.”

Amadeus might well be the best play ever written about music” professes Sound Designer and Music Consultant, Luke Di Somma. “Early in rehearsal we realised that music is a lead character in the play and should be presented in the most glorious and authentic way possible. We have sourced the most authentic and vibrant recordings from around the world so that audiences can experience the music as clearly and crisply as Mozart and Salieri would have.”

Assisting in creating the bustle of 18th century Vienna will be an ensemble of final year students from Christchurch’s National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art.

Amadeus, by Peter Shaffer and directed by Ross Gumbley,
opens on 18 May and runs to 15 June. 
Bookings at or 03 963 0870.

Amadeus feeds mind and spirit

Review by Alan Scott 20th May 2013

Amadeus is a remarkable play, a play both for the soul and the mind. There are moments in this production when music and drama are integrated with such extraordinary force that you are overcome with the sheer power of human endeavour and the ennobling grace of the spirit. Yet there are times when ignorance, connivance, deception and brutal indifference lead you to reflect on the tawdry trail of tears that is the human species walk on earth.

Peter Shaffer’s script about the life of Wolfgang Mozart and his rival Antonio Salieri might lack historical accuracy but the play uses literary licence to create its own truths. These truths are both profoundly uplifting and prosaically disturbing. They are writ large both theatrically and musically, as we watch the outcomes of the rivalry between Mozart, the wild child with smut in his mouth and heaven at his fingertips, and Salieri, the restrained classicist with the green eyed monster on his back and cold calculation in his heart.

If contrasts and contradictions are the driving force of the play, coherence and unity of purpose are the hallmarks of the production. Shaffer’s play is a huge undertaking and the Court team, using every facet of costume, staging, sound and lighting, enable the large cast to create a memorable production in which the amalgamation of the musical and theatrical elements was particularly striking.

Guy Langford as Mozart and John Bach as Salieri carry the brunt of the acting. Langford, a relative newcomer, and Bach, the veteran performer, easily bring to life the contrasting worldviews which are at the heart of the play. The characterization of wild exuberance by one and painstaking introspection by the other produces enthralling theatre.

If there is a criticism, it is that, at times, the cast as a whole seemed in awe of the enormity of the complex undertaking itself. Perhaps it was opening night nerves, but a certain stiffness in the playing sometimes lessened the impact of what is a theatergoers dream: a magnificent play and an otherwise outstanding production.


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Bountiful and delicious

Review by Lindsay Clark 19th May 2013

Eighteenth century Vienna and the exquisite court of Joseph II, Emperor of Austria, provide an extravagantly rich and theatrical setting for this revenge driven plot, but it is a bold exploration of the ‘furnace of art’ which clinches its lasting impact.

It is an absorbing and ambitious work which indulges the senses but also sharpens them, presenting a combat between prayerful, earnest and rule ridden mediocrity on the one hand and inexplicable genius on the other.

Ross Gumbley’s direction creates a dark and fascinating tale as Salieri, composer at the court of the Emperor, diligently observing the niceties of composition, social behaviour and advancement, is forced to witness the troubling and mercurial genius of Mozart.

Prayers, and plots, mean tricks and deceptions can neither erase the rival nor elevate his own work to anywhere near such soaring beauty. Fame brings him no relief. It is a bitter irony for him, only increasing the pain of his self-knowledge. Compared to Mozart, he is an artist of no substance.

It is the last night of Antonio Salieri’s life and, fortified by the delicious confections which seem a fitting image of his own compositions, he addresses us as shadows of the world to come. We are to hear his confession and learn the depths of anguish and duplicity which have been part of his world from the time Mozart arrived in Vienna.

For in experiencing the music of the younger man, who is a vulgar jackass by his own admission, Salieri is also forced to ask himself what good prayer and virtue have been in his own life. Moreover if God is capable of such poor judgement as to reveal divine beauty through such a monster, he, Salieri will undertake to destroy that conduit and teach God a lesson.

The result is an engrossing combat, heart against head, instinct against reason and through it all a chorus of rumour and reportage telling us what the world is making of it. Was Salieri directly responsible for Mozart’s death? Was his own work really just ‘lifeless scratches’, reflecting only emptiness beside Mozart’s overflowing gift? And what is the worth of fame if it arises from the approval of people who do not understand the work? Where is God in all this? Anywhere at all?

Whether or not audiences resists the challenge to make connections with their own ideas about music and art, the production is visually captivating. The play often calls for stylised action and locations which range from Salieri’s last dusty chamber to the glory of concert and palace.

Julian Southgate’s set establishes them all through wonderful illusions airily created by gauze, paint and statuary and above all collaboration with lighting. This is to Giles Tanner’s imaginative design and contributes in its turn to the glorious effect of costume by Emily Thomas. Together with sound design and music consultation from Luke Di Somma the whole presents a vivid world as bountiful and delicious as the music itself.

On opening night it was charged with the energy and conviction of a fine cast, including an ensemble of NASDA students, in a continuation of the collaborative support The Court extends to emerging artists. These young actors, to precise choreography from Stephen Robertson, provide – among their other roles – the Venticelli: little breaths of rumour and speculation to fuel the action and suggest a wider world.

The climate at court is neatly delineated by its officials: Barry De Lore as Kapellmeister Bonno, Geoffrey Heath as Count Orsini-Rosenburg, Ross McKellar as Baron Van Swieten and Adam Brookfield as Johann Kilian von  Strack. As the Emperor himself, on whose favour all depend, is Tom Trevalla, wonderfully pained and arrayed, benignly summing up every situation with his indisputable “There it is.” Absolute power enables absolute certitude. 

Enter then the asinine, absurdly giggling young Mozart, absorbed in a silly game of cat and mouse with the pretty young woman who will become his wife. This is Constanze Weber, a very practical creature beneath the froth of her wonderful clothes and played with a modern air by Amy Straker.

So to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, realised in the loose-limbed person of Guy Langford. His especial strength in the role relies on brilliant physical expression and captures, too, the child in the man whose delight in play is touched with wonder.

Throughout the whole, it is the brooding presence of John Bach, a watchful, graven Salieri which binds the piece into strong theatre. Powering through this huge and demanding role, he is more sober than sinister, a serious artist facing unanswerable questions. 

Theatre on a grand scale, this production is gratifyingly lavish in its conception, leaving an audience absolved by Salieri of their own mediocrity and charmed by the experience.  2013-05-19


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