It is all too easy to underestimate what is possible. It’s an idea that sparks passion, revenge and betrayal in Talk is Free Theatre’s upcoming production of “Amadeus,” but it also rings true for the company itself.
When one thinks of excellence in theatrical artistry, you would be forgiven if The City of Barrie wasn’t the first community that came to mind. Since 2003, however, Talk is Free Theatre has been confounding expectations and generating nationally-recognized productions.
“We were responding to the need of Barrie to become an important and unique cultural centre,” says founder and artistic producer, Arkady Spivak, about the beginning of Talk is Free Theatre. “This included being able to produce repertoire one cannot readily see elsewhere, or plays done in a trailblazing way.”
Fifteen years later, calling the company a success is an understatement. In that time, Barrie has seen some of the country’s most compelling and innovative productions. It’s increasingly common now for productions created in Barrie to have life and receive acclaim in major centres like Toronto as well as seeing national and international tours.
“They’re always one of my favourite companies to work for,” says actor David Coomber, who has worked with Hollywood stars and in theatres across North America. “Every show is the perfect combination of big healthy artistic risks and the best people.”
On Feb. 15 at the Mady Centre Park Place Theatre, Talk is Free opens a brand new production of Peter Shaffer’s modern classic, “Amadeus.” The play premiered in London in 1979; then opened on Broadway a year later where it garnered a Tony award for best play and went on to be adapted for the Oscar-winning film of the same name.
“This is a play about art, artists and genius,” says show director Esther Jun. “It is a sumptuous piece of writing with intrigue, sex, revenge and forgiveness all wrapped up in gorgeous, heartbreaking music.”
“Amadeus” is a highly-fictionalized account of the rivalry between composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonioni Salieri. Salieri resents the work Mozart is able to create despite being a graceless boor. This underestimation leads Salieri to spend much of his time trying to destroy Mozart’s career while pretending to be his friend. Struggle, betrayal and the contemplation of genius are set to the music of the composers themselves.
Coomber takes on the iconic role of Mozart, in his fourth role for Talk is Free.
“Listening to the music and reading the letters he wrote to his father and wife, have been valuable,” he says. “Each one offers a window into where his head was at politically, socially, and artistically.”
“Artists go through so many emotional journeys in pursuing art,” adds Jun. “But also, artists are humans. We all want to be good at what we do. Some are just willing to go further than others.”
She should know. She comes to the show with an impressive list of credits to her name, from the Shaw festival to Toronto’s legendary Tarragon Theatre. Her take on the story comes from experience.
“It’s truly going to be a feast for the ears, mind and heart,” said Jun.
Amadeus: February 15-24 at the Mady Centre. For tickets, visit www.tift.ca