Amadeus by Peter Shaffer at Chichester Festival Theatre
George Orwell famously described England as an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same.
Those words could equally be applied to Chichester Festival Theatre.
The completion of its £22m renew project has seen the building transformed for the better – and yet in every way that matters it remains true to its original self.
That consistency is not merely architectural – the building’s hexagonal skeleton still shapes the theatre – but profoundly artistic too.
Peter Shaffer, whose associations with the festival theatre date back almost to its birth, is the playwright chosen to raise the curtain on the renewed theatre; and this revival of Amadeus is arguably the best ever.
It tells the story of one of the greatest composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Joshua McGuire), as seen through the bitter eyes of contemporary Antonio Salieri (Rupert Everett).
It is a play about professional jealousy and rivalry; the enduring triumph of genius over mediocrity; and the lingering question as to whether Salieri poisoned the composer of The Magic Flute.
Everett and McGuire dominate throughout and their performances are sublime.
McGuire captures to perfection the contrasting characteristics of Mozart, which marked him out as an exquisite composer and an often coarse and troubled human being.
Everett – whose performance at Chichester reaches new heights of charismatic perfection – blends the sinister with the utterly vulnerable; as he etches a man riven with an ego that can only be sated at the expense of the better man.
Designer Simon Higlett has a proud association with the CFT – and his sophisticatedly simply set is the hallmark of quality.
Jonathan Church, the theatre’s artistic director, takes the helm for this opening show.
His masterful touch proves, if further evidence were required, that the prized CFT has never been in safer hands and in the wake of renew, the theatre’s future has never shone brighter.