Amadeus Opening Night
11th October, 2019
Finally, the moment had arrived
There is something slightly surreal about opening night. All of the effort and the planning and it has come to pass. There is so much luck in the entire body of people making it to the opening night, safe and well and ready for the challenge. For me, there has been such mental energy expended that I often feel a little removed. I suppose, I am beginning the process of relaxing from the pressure. Most decisions are made.
There also remains a tricky time during the run of the show. Having put so much time and commitment into this production, we now have to accept the audience response. Every reaction is valid.
We breathe and make our offering.
Before the show
We had a minute’s silence to remember the Healy family, whose son, Codie, was still missing in Dunmanus Bay. All of the cast and crew came on stage before we began and we invited the audience to join us in sending our thoughts to them all. In the midst of tragedy, life continues to move onwards. But, within our excitement, we had the family, and Codie, in our hearts.
Our work paid off and, from my point of view, we had a great performance of Amadeus.
On the night, having worried about the pace of Act 1, it turned out that the second Act was a little slow. Pacing was a concern and required attention for the rest of the run. But the pace did improve.
We had one call before night two where I went through each of the entrances and exists with the cast, and brought their cues forward by a substantial amount –– at least three or four lines –- finding that it was more important for them to be in position and ready on the stage than for the actors on stage to be waiting for their line with the resulting loss of flow and energy.
Given the style of this play, with short scenes and constant changing sets and characters, it was really quite a challenge to present in this small local hall, with a small stage.
In fact, I wonder were we slightly bonkers to take it on!
There was a demand for the prompter but that lessened over time, and one night there was no prompting required at all!
Looking after the actors during the run
In a play of this length, two hours and fifty minutes most nights, stamina and focus was central to its success. To eat well, avoiding the lovely chocolate offerings brought surreptitiously by the cast (not good for the vocal chords) was my advice.
The Salieris were the only actors for whom this became a real concern. For the Younger, the sheer length and demands of the play on one actor is enormous. It is fantastically challenging though, on brain power –- to remember the volume of words –– on the physical body and the emotional demands.
There is humour and moments of playfulness in the play and our particular take on it lifted the visual aspects of the performance to lighten and support it –– by this I mean the colour of the costumes, the style of the props, and the heightened characters.
For the Elder, sitting continuously in one place for the length of the play was a huge challenge physically, and then maintaining focus and energy when one wasn’t speaking for long stretches was highly demanding emotionally.
What we got right was plenty of tea and other refreshments and there were biscuits and home-made cake! Bliss.
Amazing Moments from Amadeus: Jack Zagar
Amazing moments from Amadeus: Todd Bellici
Within all the excitement and anticipation of any performance, there is also the concern about what the response of people will be. Obviously, the connection with the audience is crucial for a play.
It can be hard if the response is critical. How criticism or feedback is given is part of the experience of receiving it, as is the timing of it.
My view is that when an actor, in fact any artist, presents their work, at the end of a performance, there is an openness and vulnerability that must be handled with sensitivity and generosity.
That’s not to say that a person reviewing should lie, but I believe there is a moment when that reflection is better given than others.
We had two different responses to opening night. Positive and negative.
An email from Fran and Viv:
Karen! You did it!
The first thing that struck me was the pair of chattering class biddies OUTSIDE the venue whispering behind their fans as we climbed the church steps. Viv and I thought they looked great but when we moved to greet them they turned their backs to us and carried on their deep mutterings. Wow! We were no longer going to the local church hall Then the was the ferryman to pay – Florence – for our passage across the Rubicon between Schull and Venice.
Inside, the transformation of a utilitarian ubifunctional space onto a singular gob of something specifically designed for you-knew-not-what stopped you in your tracks. The seating arranged at an angle to the accepted focus of The Stage reinforcing the deflection of attention from the obvious – just as gossiping pair outside had done – to the curious.
I loved the strands of nylon wire running laser-like across the auditorium, picking up the lights and creating the effect of a false glass ceiling. The backdrop is a work of art of course and it came to life at moments throughout the play, particularly where Salieri the younger was describing his first hearing of Mozart’s music – the dark intro pierced by the searing oboe and gentler clarinet. It was all there on the backdrop. Amazing. Clair’s opening soliloquet was absolutely marvellous and paved the way for what was to come.
It was all marvellous. The Venticelli were great and rivetting. The leading roles were everyting one would expect – and more. And the removal of gender most effective.
Congratulations and thanks to all concerned.
Fran and Viv.
The negative feedback focused on the length of the play, sore bottoms from the seating and the second half being slow.
Three hours was a long time for some people to be in a play, but others didn’t notice the time going.
It was difficult to hold our nerve. In hindsight, I think there are people who liked it and people who didn’t. That’s it, that’s life. That it seemed to affect our audience numbers was a shame. Though, since finishing the run, we have met many who said, ‘Such a pity you’re not doing it again. I heard it was great.’
A review from a theatre critic offered following the performance on Saturday, 12th October, 2019
Pass the Baton, Mozart
Elizabeth Hilliard Selka
One of the props in a staging of Amadeus, the play currently running until Sunday in Schull’s parish hall, offers a surprising link between this show and the cult television series Game of Thrones. Conducting the premiere of his opera The Magic Flute, the play’s character Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart beats time with the traditional conductor’s baton – but not just any baton. This one has a unique performing history of its own. It was donated by Emmerdale actor Sion Tudor Owen to the recent silent auction raising funds for Fastnet Film Festival after he and fellow actor Bob Pugh, Craster in Game of Thrones, sailed into Schull to take part in the 2018 festival and had such a great time here that they wanted to give something back. The baton was bought by Julia Zagar, who plays outrageous Emperor Joseph as well as being the Schull production’s designer. ‘This conductor’s baton was used by Sion Tudor Owen when he played Mozart in one of the original productions of Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus in the UK way back in the 1980s,’ explains Julia. On its journey to West Cork, the baton was also used by Sion when acting in the film One Chance, to conduct comedian James Corden playing Paul Potts, heartwarming real-life opera star who beat the bullies to win the first ever series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2007.
Schull’s Amadeus is a production full of surprises and not to be missed. Director Karen Minihan turned disaster into triumph when, due to unforeseen circumstance, the lead parts of Mozart and his wife Constanza had to be recast barely a month before opening night. In a stroke of gender-blind genius, she cast Bridget Staunton as Mozart and gave the part of Constanza to Max Vearncombe, son of the late pop star Colin Vearncombe of Wonderful Life fame. Much comedy follows, as Max is much taller than Bridget and is bearded, but the pair’s outstanding performances are as thrilling and poignant as they are amusing in the plot’s developing tragedy. In another departure, the huge part of Salieri, villain of the piece, is played by two actors, Victor Hayes and Clair Lalor as the younger and older character. The production’s design too is bold—the action zips between 18th and 19th century Vienna but here all period costume is dispensed with in favour of contemporary trouser suits in witty ice-cream colours worn over a specially-designed production T-shirt.
This ambitious and outstanding play is large-scale—a cast of 18 on stage, assisted by a huge team of committed producers, designers, makers, technicians, sponsors and many others who have been working for two years to make it happen—and is the joint vision of two collectives in Schull, PlayActing Theatre and Schull Drama Group, supported by Cork County Council. Buy your tickets on the door for the 8pm start this Friday 18th and Saturday 19th, with the final performance at 5pm on Sunday 20th October 2019.