Philip Amor enters the dark, troubled world of Salieri for the Arundel Players’ production of Amadeus.
The Players are staging Peter Shaffer’s celebrated play at their Priory Playhouse home as their contribution to this year’s Arundel Festival, with performances from August 17-24.
At the play’s heart is Salieri’s damaged relationship with the upstart Mozart whose genius threatens his whole existence.
Philip is relishing a monumental acting challenge. Salieri begins the piece as an old man before slipping back to relay the events of his much younger years, a transformation Philip will have to offer in full view on stage.
“We move to 1781, at a time when Salieri was fairly Italianate. He is fairly flamboyant and self-assured. Being Italianate, he doesn’t particularly get on with the Austrian court, but he has respect as the court composer.
“He is aware of Mozart. He knows of him. He knows he is supposed to be miraculous, but at the time I don’t think he had heard any of his music. And then Mozart arrives. Salieri hears this wonderful, wonderful music, and suddenly Salieri is intimidated by this young upstart who is miraculous and brilliantly gifted but is also very rude and vulgar.
“Mozart has been given the gift that Salieri had prayed for. He wanted to be a composer. He wanted fame. He wanted to write wonderful music for God. And now when he meets Mozart, he feels that God has let him down.
“And so he wants to destroy the man personally, to undermine him, to do what he can do to get rid of him. But as it goes on, he suddenly becomes aware that Mozart is God’s instrument.
“He is no longer taking on Mozart. He is taking on God. And it is God’s instrument on earth that he wants to destroy...”
And so the tale twists ever more darkly...
“He becomes slightly demented in the continuing battle with God, essentially to be remembered and to be somebody famous. The only way he can to do that is to convince people that he murdered Mozart. ‘Let them forget me then!’, he says.”
In the long line of parts Philip has played, he is sure this one is going to be ‘top of the shop’ in terms of the challenges and rewards it will bring.
At 8,500 words, it’s certainly the biggest part he has ever played.
His method for learning it is repetition, repetition, repetition, Philip says: “That’s the only way, and you can’t do it quietly. The trick to memorising the words is muscle memory in the mouth. The mouth has to get used to the words.
“When you are performing, you don’t want to be having to recall the words in your head. They have got to just arrive because I will be so deep in the character, so totally absorbed in the character.
“My own take on it is that he wins his battle with Mozart and indirectly with God, but then he feels a degree of remorse because of what he has done to the man...”
As he says, in reality, Mozart and Salieri were probably on reasonably good terms, but Philip has not researched all the background to the role: “I am trying to create this man from the script. His character has to change throughout the play, not just through age, but through the way he talks.”
Tickets for the Arundel Players are available on www.arundelplayers.org.uk. The Arundel Festival runs from August 17-26.