Writer: Yasmina Reza
Translater: Christopher Hampton
Director: Kate Saxon
Reviewer: Sue Dixon
The Public Reviews Rating:
It has been said that Yasmina Reza writes plays that are short, sharp and witty – starting with simple ideas – that her characters then react to and journey the audience into riveting and entertaining outcomes. God of Carnage does fit that description but the promise of huge laughs will depend on just how grotesque and cringing you find these characters to be.
Libby Watson’s set is simple – a typical middle class lounge, lit with a backdrop of tulips, the emblems of affectation and subsequent carnage. The tilting stage, however, seemed more of a burden than adding anything striking. Why else were the female characters forced to wear such ‘sensible shoes’? They were incongruous with their coiffured images but unfortunately necessary to cope with the angle of the stage.
The play begins quite unassumingly. Parents of one eleven year old boy invite another set of parents around to tea to discuss an ‘incident’ that took place between their sons in the local park. These ostensibly middle class, deeply cultured and highly civilized parents begin to discuss the matter in a hypocritical but cool and pointed way. There are plenty of phoney compliments and awkward silences before things escalate into what can only be described as nuclear meltdown.
This is when some members of the audience really began to laugh out loud at the vicious stripping away of the shallow lives these characters represent.
And some don’t as many of the observations are a bit too near the knuckle of spite and cruelty to be really funny.
Annette played by Melanie Gutteridge epitomises the repressed, worn down wife of the hideous Alain; an embarrassing high powered lawyer played in well observed, irritating and pompous fashion by Simon Wilson. It is quickly established that he is more attached to his mobile phone than his family but this aspect felt a bit overplayed at times; the point is made and then laboured because of the frequency of ‘legal’ interruptions. Annette begins as the more demure and controlled of the four but her mastery over the shades of dark and light are very well executed. Her ultimate statement is to projectile vomit all over the beautifully arranged art magazines – having a dramatic impact on the audience – and this is the catalyst to shift the civilised behaviour into the more primeval that follows.
Simon Wilson plays Alain in arrogant bullying fashion, making him the most hateful of the characters. It is more what he doesn’t say rather than some of the squirming, queasy lines of the others that makes him more sinister in some ways.
Sian Reeves is Veronica; the pretentious, frustrated and controlling wife to Michael (James Doherty), her equally frustrated opposite. Doherty’s descent into boorish self-centredness is a bit chilling as his true feelings about the abandonment of a hamster and his own children sink in.
Reza’s commentary on middle class hypocrisy, guilt and selfish introspection is relentless. None of them end up with many redeeming features as each is dismantled in a degrading if predictable fashion. The talented cast carries this descent into collective, selfish drunkenness which reveals the tantrums and frustrations of the so called civilised class.
Surprising what a few glasses of quality rum can reveal!
Runs until Saturday 10 November 2012
Picture: Robert Day
Tags: Christopher Hampton, Dominic Haslam, God of Carnage, James Doherty, Kate Saxon, Libby Watson, Made In Northampton, Melanie Gutteridge, Northampton, Royal & Derngate, Sian Reeves, Simon Wilson, Yasmina Reza