Touring – reviewed at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
Guest reviewer: Heather Chalkley
God of Carnage is a dissection of the middle classes familiar in Yasmina Reza’s work, presenting the characters in a farcical light that is so tragically funny. Christopher Hampton’s translation somehow gives the script a quintessentially English feel, mirroring the timeless reality of the middle classes.
The audience laughed out loud as each character evolved from civilised, decent parent into an alcohol fuelled caricature, hell bent on defending their child. A playground scuffle, resulting in broken teeth and a fat lip, is physically absent but very present on the stage at all times. In true Reza style, family becomes the important fifth player.
Elizabeth McGovern (Veronica) and Nigel Lindsay (Michael) interact as a believable liberal, middle-class couple, trying their hardest to show how very modern and civilised they are. From the get go McGovern presents a smile and welcome for her invited guests, with a simmering undercurrent of seething that surfaces now and again when discussing the scuffle. Lindsay is great as the father full of pride when he discovers his son is part of a gang, just like he was. Even greater when he catches himself showing it.
Simon Paisley Day (Alan) starts as a cynical, pompous, man full of self importance, stating that his son is a thug and asking for some parenting pointers, with complete disingenuity. His inability to express emotions hilariously comes out in his clumsy attempts to be affectionate towards his wife, at one point patting her on the head. Samantha Spiro (Annette) plays the wife. She cleverly winds her character up into a frenzy as she is simultaneous ignored by the other characters, finally projectile vomiting across the stage.
Director Lindsay Posner creates a free-flowing piece, putting each character in the spotlight as the play ramps up the comedy volume in each scene. The use of the stage and movement of props is clearly carefully thought about to gain maximum impact, highlighting the comedic or tragic value. The creative team produces a set with an air of sophistication, wealth and bourgeois chintz. All of which blends together for an effortless performance by the cast.
We have always loved a good farce in the UK and the middle classes have always been easy pickings. God of Carnage is a fine example and well worth a watch.
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