GOD OF CARNAGE
by Yasmina Reza translate by Christopher Hampton.
Royal and Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Street NN1 1DP To 10 November 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 7 Nov.
BSL Signed 8 Nov 7.45pm.
Captioned 6 Nov.
Post-show Discussion 30 October.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
Tickets: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 October.
Sick-making drama of social pretence.
Their children started the problem, Veronica and Michael’s son having been assaulted by Alan and Annette’s boy. All very simple for sophisticated parents to sort out, as Annette and Alan, smartly dressed, sit in the other pair’s home, drawing-up an agreed form of words for a Restorative Justice session between the lads.
Except the strong rope of civilisation unravels, strand-by-strand, dangerous corner by dangerous corner of conversation, till the spacious yet overbearing Islington room designed by Libby Watson becomes a mess, and hostilities within and between couples emerge, along with individual weaknesses such as alcohol and nicotine.
Kate Saxon’s production mixes the opening neat row of polite adults into a swill of anger, couples grouped, aggressively defensive, in corners then realigned with Michael and Veronica assertively seated on the sofa they’d originally offered their visitors.
This is a world of appearances that mislead, revealed through Alan’s legal advice to a pharmaceutical company and through Veronica and Michael’s playing-up to their visitors’ liberal surfaces. And it’s one where destructive forces come spilling-out; literally when the most poised and self-composed character’s innards suddenly evacuate their contents.
Simon Wilson’s suavely selfish Alan is well-matched with Siân Reeves’ trophy-wife Annette. There’s something of the outsider to James Doherty’s Michael, his northern voice separating him from the other couple, while his occupation remains mysterious – as does his pairing with Melanie Gutteridge’s artistic-seeming Veronica, whose love of art turns out to mean love of elegant books about art.
But Yasmina Reza’s play, given a suitable Islington address in Christopher Hampton’s English translation, is the stuff of many a social comedy; a social upgrade on Abigail’s Party, for instance. More schematic, if less patronising, than Mike Leigh’s play, Reza’s has characters that are evidently there to demonstrate a point rather than to represent living individuals. It’s coin-in-the slot drama; once the machine starts the process is predetermined, if its individual steps can sometimes surprise.
Luis Bunuel did something similar more original and devastating in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. But, played with skilful revelation of what lies behind each surface, it’s fun enough while it lasts.
Michael: James Doherty.
Annette: Melanie Gutteridge.
Veronica: Siân Reeves.
Alan: Simon Wilson.
Director: Kate Saxon.
Designer: Libby Watson.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound/Composer: Dominic Haslam.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.