Boys will be boys, but their parents are not much better. 11 year old Ferdinand has attacked playmate Bruno in a French park because he is not allowed to join Bruno’s gang. Bruno is in shock and has lost a couple of teeth, but his parents invite Ferdinand’s parents over, hoping to resolve the dispute amicably. Veronique has made an exquisite pear and apple clafoutis and they’ve been out especially to buy fresh tulips, but it’s not long before the couples start to get on each other’s nerves.
The tipping point in the meeting - when Ferdinand’s mother Annette vomits all over the coffee table (and Veronique’s precious art catalogue) - is nicely executed. From here on the insults and physical violence escalate into a chaotic free-for-all. The true colours of both marriages appear as both sets of husbands and wives turn on each other and on their counterparts. The cast does a good job of keeping the tension high while also making sure the humour of Yasmina Reza’s play comes through. Particularly hilarious is the scene when Felicity Cullen’s drunk Annette gleefully dunks her husband Alain’s phone in the tulip vase.
Pat Hymer is very good as Michel, Bruno’s father and Veronique’s wife, with his generous, eager to keep the peace façade contrasting strongly with the truth of what he had done to the family’s hamster. The only issue is that Hymer’s joviality is so convincing almost right up until the final scenes that accepting Veronique’s revelations of his character’s constant cynicism and negativity is nearly impossible. Jonathan McGarrity’s Alain is more believable as the extremely irritating, aggressive lawyer always on his mobile sorting out dubious-sounding legal matters.
God of Carnage is a tense play, and while this production has tried to make good use of the calmer moments, the show is a very fraught experience. There’s far too little variation in tone. The overall effect is not so different to listening to your neighbours having a 100-minute long domestic. In fact, you could just do that, instead of seeing this show, but you would miss out on some decent acting and a good dose of philosophy on the nature of humanity.