The Mozart Question – Barn Theatre, Cirencester review.

One of the most moving, heart touching stories I’ve ever seen.

The Barn is celebrating (16th March) its fourth anniversary and their latest production of Michael Morpurgo’s, The Mozart Question, cleverly managed and directed by Jessica Daniels, perfectly illustrates how far they have come as a national force in the theatre world.

The fact that the author and former Children’s Laureate has entrusted the Barn with the adaptation of his book, which he refers to as his most important work, is testament to the relationship the Barn and Sir Michael have (this is their fourth production with him) and the confidence he has in their creative skills and ability to produce stunning theatre productions.

Almost three years in the making, this Built by Barn production of The Mozart Question is an unbelievably beautiful, haunting tale of secrets and survival bound together by the power of music.

The story follows the world-renowned violinist Paolo Levi on his fiftieth birthday who is about to be interviewed by a young reporter at his home in Venice. She is told that she can ask him anything at all - except the Mozart question. But it is Paolo himself who decides that the time has come for the truth to be told. And so, follows the story of his parents in a Jewish concentration camp, forced to play Mozart violin concerti for the enemy where they were literally playing for their lives.

Paolo's father, Gino, has vowed never to play his violin again, but Signor Horowitz, also a member of the concentration camp orchestra, believes in the healing power of music. Morpurgo knows of the healing power of storytelling, too, and this stage play very much reflects the book and its story theme of the corrosive effects of secrets and lies as they are passed from one generation to the next, and the redemptive power of truth and art. There are chinks of beauty that can be grasped at even in the darkest times.

The Mozart Question explores how something so sublime such as Mozart's music can be used for evil purposes, but with such a light touch, it shirks nothing and yet is supremely suitable for family audiences; perfectly highlighting the fortitude of humanity in the most dangerous of circumstances. A very poignant reminder of how cruel mankind can be.

The striking starkness of the multi levelled stage of brick and plaster created by set designer Ceci Calf is cleverly adapted as the story shifts from a vibrant 1960’s Venice landscape to the more foreboding backdrop of a wartime concentration camp through the brilliant use of lighting by Sam Tanner, with warmer tones providing a more uplifting mood of hope and togetherness to the colder tones of threat and sadness.

Matthew Romain who plays older Paolo and Gino leads an exceptionally talented ensemble of musicians in a tour de force of classical music from Mozart to Vivaldi creatively arranged by the very talented Rudy Percival.

Matt Ray Brown encapsulates the threat of the concentration camp with a chilling portrayal of the ruthless German Officer in charge. Again, great lighting and music amplify and build the real tension and drama of the moment, while cleverly presenting a difficult subject matter with great empathy.

The Barn Theatre’s production of The Mozart Question is without doubt one of the most moving, heart touching stories I’ve seen. This is a wonderful piece that took me through every emotion imaginable.