God of Carnage

Who has not experienced a situation in which a surmountable incident escalates out of all proportion? Then, on the way to resolving it, further baggage accumulates around the subject, which in turn spreads into numerous diversionary arguments that become subjects of dispute themselves and overshadow the original argument.

A missed opportunity to meaningfully stage Reza’s magnificent work

Yasmin Reza’s celebrated God of Carnage, for which she won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play, takes this simple phenomenon as the stimulus for what should be an intense exchange between two couples trying to resolve a playground altercation between their respective sons. The issue, concerning what should be done to resolve or compensate for the situation in which Alan and Annette’s son hit Michel and Veronica’s son in the face with a stick, soon fades into the background, though it is intermittently revived when the couples run out of things to say. Very soon, what starts out as a polite evening of potential reconciliation between the two families soon descends into visceral exchanges that attack the weaknesses of each character and the dysfunctionality of both couple’s marital relationships. The carnage into which the evening descends sees temporary alliances formed between the women against the men and husbands or wives from one marriages lined up against their opposites in the other.

Christopher Hampton’s translation of Reza’s carefully crafted dialogue affords opportunities for nuanced delivery, humour, emotional highs and lows, impassioned outbursts, displays of arrogance and conceit along with self-deprecation. These diverse ingredients once thrown into melting-pot should make for an unnervingly tense encounter between these strangers. There should be dramatic waves and an ebb and flow of these elements that create an ever-changing and harrowing landscape. However, director Nicholai La Barrie misses most of these opportunities in a production that is flat, not for lack of energy but from an absence of undulations that should craftily ring the changes of tone and be dramatically captivating and absorbing. Instead, we have monotonously overly-exaggerated, loud exchanges that seem anything but heartfelt.

Casting by Heather Basten sees Freema Agyeman and Martin Hutson, respectively play Veronique and Michel Vallon and Ariyon Bakare and Dinita Gohil Alain and Annette Reille. With neither couple is there any sense of marital chemistry that might have brought them together. They stand as individuals whose dysfunctional pairings are exacerbated by vitriolic exchanges and isolated idiosyncratic behaviour. What might otherwise be strained claustrophobic exchanges of people trapped in a sitting room lose potency in Lily Arnold’s visually satisfying minimalist set. Placing it on a revolve, for no apparent reason, without walls leaves it lost in the expansive stage, with the actors often annoyingly blocked by a lamp or statue. Richard Howell’s lighting design is bright, and features a surrounding semicircle of lights that rise at the start of the play and descend at the end. Again, visually impressive but short on significance. Meanwhile, Asaf Zohar’s sound design and composition blasts through the amps as a prelude to the play suggesting only that what might follow is going to be equally grating and loud.

The production is a missed opportunity to meaningfully stage Reza’s magnificent work and expose the shallowness of relationships and the superficiality that exists below the veneer of respectability.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

They say kids will be kids, but the adults are worse – much worse.

The other day in the park, 11 year old Ferdinand knocked 11 year old Bruno’s two front teeth out. Their parents meet up to have a civil conversation about the misdemeanours of their children in a suitably calm and rational way… what can go wrong? As night falls chaos ensues with explosive tantrums, name-calling and tears.

Lyric Associate Director Nicholai La Barrie directs Yasmina Reza’s Olivier and Tony Award-winning play, translated by Christopher Hampton.

With her sharp corrosive wit Reza rips the thin veneer of civility with heart-pounding honesty. God of Carnage is the unmissable darkly funny roller-coaster you won’t want to end.

Winner! Three 2009 Tony Awards, including Best Play Winner! 2009 Olivier Award for Best Comedy

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