3.1.1 Peter Shaffer's staging technique
Peter Shaffer has often been accused of making his plays too "theatrical". This complaint seems somehow out of place. One might ask, what else should a theatre play be but theatrical? However, this opinion indicates that Shaffer's production technique is exceptional in many aspects. He has "the unique capability of effectively combining form, content and mise-en-scène" (Plunka, 14) in his plays, where he often experiments with "lighting, scenic designs, music, masks, choruses, sounds and sonority, incantations and rhythms, as well as rites and rituals" (Plunka, 36).
The combination of those dramatic devices produces an effective and "imaginative theatricality, where metaphor and nonrealism dominate" (Gianakaris 1985, 86). This staging technique creates a necessity for a radical method of adaptation. Shaffer's symbolic language is not suitable for the cinema and therefore has to be changed and replaced with a different visual imagery. On stage, however, his "stunning spectacles, lavish soundscapes, dramatic action, and a powerful artillery of rhetoric" (Stern, 641) turn his plays into an unforgettable theatre experience.
Amadeus on stage was equally imaginative and impressive as Peter Shaffer's other plays. For Milos Forman, this meant that he would have to "take the basic story and characters, and the spirit of the play, and then start from scratch" (Forman, quoted from Kakutani, 1):
The fact that "Amadeus" was so stylized, so theatrical -- well, so uncinematic, he argued, was actually a blessing -- it meant they wouldn't be tempted to merely translate the play to the screen, but would be forced to demolish the original, then totally reimagine it as a film. (Forman, quoted from Kakutani, 1)
In this way, Peter Shaffer succeeded in "giving birth to the same child twice" (Forman, quoted from Kakutani, 1) and the result of this recreation of his work was the Oscar-winning screenplay. On the other hand, one must remember that although Milos Forman's name does not appear in the credits for the script, he really was its co-author and that without his help Peter Shaffer would not have been able to achieve such a cinematic result.