Venue: Drama Barn
Running until: 13 March
Directed and Written by: Tom Vickers
Tom Vickers’ Ramadan Amadeus is an ambitious attempt to stylise the canonical Faust narrative in a novel way, but ultimately ends up chasing its own tale in the lengthy production. It is not without its merits – in the form of moments of inspired acting, and an enthused use of the drama barn itself – but it fell short of making a positive lasting impact.
Unfortunately, the play’s main fault lies in its script. Self-consciously inter-textual, but often patronising, its sweeping references to Hindu mysticism and its deities appeared contrived. Likewise, the cornucopia of historical figures and mathematical formulae, although contributed to the rich tapestry Vickers was trying to create, was so gnomically constructed it left the narrative indecipherable to outsiders. Mephisto’s line “I shall bash together all the world’s religions and make them dance to my tune” seemed to encompass Vickers’ own motivations.
Faust (Joe Williams) and Mephisto (Tom Stokes) were confident in their roles as dual adversaries, the latter in particular providing some of the play’s dramatic climaxes. In the final scenes, the deconstruction of Mephisto’s character was acted with great sensitivity, and provided some of the most emotively evocative scenes of the piece.
Williams, though providing moments of brilliant passion, spent all too much of the two and a half hours looking vaguely whimsical, and as if someone had asked him a particularly troubling question.
Williams’ scenes with Kali (Anjali Vyas-Brannick) showcased some of Vickers’ best writing, poignant and beautifully authentic and subtle. However, the quality of the writing was not mirrored in the one dimensional acting, which failed to fulfil its potential and lacked chemistry. The ensemble cast provided more than adequate support, in particular Schrödinger (Ryan Lane), was thoroughly convincing and a pleasure to watch.
The set and placement of the audience was imaginative and aesthetically impressive, mirroring the circle imagery in the piece and evoking a sense of continuation into the audience. The use of fire and light was pleasingly symbolic, and gave the play atmospheric mythical resonance. Sadly the inclusion of a largely discordant violin did not provide as effective a backdrop to the scenes as could have been hoped.
The production’s primary fault lies in Vickers’ misunderstanding of the way in which “imagination is more important than knowledge”, and it became a showcase of his intellectual gymnastics. The inaccessibility of his text overshadowed moments of true dramatic integrity and some impressive performances.