Theatre Art of Bangalore is among the very few English-language theatre groups in India who care about doing serious plays. Not just that, their skilled abilities permit them to take on theatrically challenging scripts which ordinary groups normally avoid, such as Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (presented by Sangit Kala Mandir, November 27). In this case, Shaffer’s early career as a music critic clearly influenced his difficult demand for some expertise in classical pianism from the two lead actors.
Amadeus conjecturally reconstructs Mozart’s life from the perspective of the envy felt by his rival, the court composer Salieri. Shaffer’s characteristic interest in psychology joins with his favoured technique of creating two antagonists who embody different moralities and value systems. Amadeus raises very thoughtful conflicts between divine genius (Mozart) and uninspired diligence (Salieri), artistic acclaim (Mozart) and commercial success (Salieri). Director Arjun Sajnani faithfully transmits these ideas, though he could have soft-pedalled the sensationalism built into the concluding third of the play.
Although named after Mozart, Amadeus depends heavily on the person playing Salieri; Barry Underwood does well in the flashback scenes but cannot lift the soliloquies of the guilt-ridden dying old man, made so memorable by F. Murray Abraham in the movie. Darius Taraporvala thrives in the part of the prurient, puerile Mozart, a role so delicious for an actor that one critic called it “the prodigy as prodigal”. Unfortunately, Veena Sajnani enacts his wife without much sparkle. But Ashok Mandanna compensates with a delightful cameo as the epicurean Emperor.
(From The Telegraph, 23 January 1993)