PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2009, 12:00am


Hong Kong Players

Shouson Theatre, HK Arts Centre

Reviewed: Sept 16

Inspired by Pushkin's Mozart and Salieri (1831), Peter Shaffer's 1979 play explores a historical mystery: did Antonio Salieri, court composer of Austrian emperor Joseph II, murder Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? And if so, what was his motive, given that at the time he was far more successful than Mozart?

Shaffer offers fascinating answers to these questions. He draws the audience into the mind of Salieri who, alone is capable of appreciating the true worth of Mozart's music, vows vengeance on God for giving this gift to Mozart - portrayed as a buffoonish, immature brat. Ian Pratley's straightforward, well-paced production for the Hong Kong Players allows Shaffer's writing to speak for itself. Apart from a few dodgy wigs, the quality and professionalism of the show belies the company's 'amateur' label.

Amadeus is an actor's play and the two demanding central roles were well served. Samuel Craig was appropriately infuriating as the bumptious, giggling Mozart at the beginning and touching in his pitiful, bemused decline at the end.

Stephen Bolton delivered Salieri's monologues superbly. He brought out the character's sly humour and was moving faced with the terrible realisation of Mozart's genius and his own mediocrity. But he remained too sympathetic to convey Salieri's descent into evil as envy corrodes his soul.

Stephanie Fodor is miscast as Constanze Mozart - her American accent jars with those of the rest of the company and she resorted to ear-splitting shrillness to express intense emotion. Otherwise, the supporting cast is excellent, notably Adam Harris, extremely funny as Joseph II, and the neatly synchronised duo of Jane Archibald and Olivia Kennard as the Venticelli.