Written by Yasmina Reza
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Brian Harrington
Performed in June 2016
New Era Players: God of Carnage, at New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from June 8 to 11 and June 14 to 18
Parenting is a difficult and complex subject, so when two 11-year-old boys, Ferdinand and Bruno, have a fracas over name-calling and one hits the other with a stick, causing the loss of two of his teeth, both sets of parents meet up to try and reconcile the situation.
This simple premise is the substance of Yasmina Reza's fastidiously observed and sharply witty play God of Carnage, skilfully translated by Christopher Hampton and splendidly performed by New Era Players. The chic minimalistic set with modern art hanging on the blue painted walls, with elegant furniture and vases filled with tulips on the tables creates the Parisian scene.
At first relationships between the parents are polite, dignified and cordial as coffee and homemade clafoutis is served and they prepare statements of what they believed had happened. Veronique, delightfully played by Lisa Harrington, is determined to get an apology from Ferdinand and is determined to get retribution. She is a self-assured writer who is preparing a book about Darfur and is passionate about human rights and Africa. Her down-to-earth and downtrodden husband Michel (Neil Dewdney) is big in domestic hardware – his knowledge of toilet systems is certainly extensive. He has a fear of rodents and has 'liberated' his daughter's pet hamster Nibbles, setting it free on to the streets of Paris, much to the angst of his wife and his daughter.
By contrast, Stephen Holcomb, pompously portraying Alain, epitomises the arrogance of a high-powered lawyer who is in the middle of an important pharmaceutical law case and is constantly on his mobile phone, in order to avoid a massive scandal, much to the growing annoyance of everyone. Luisa Rayner as Annette is a joy to watch, stridently supporting her antagonistic son. Her strong character begins to unravel when she is physically sick over Veronique's precious Kokoschka art catalogue, bringing many apologies as the mess is cleared up.
Relationships between the parents and each other spectacularly break down, with hilarious results, fuelled by copious amounts of Michel's special rum. These are dysfunctional people living in disastrous marriages whose anger, frustration, and phoney lives are painstakingly revealed as they squabble and fight with almost childish hysteria as chaos ensues. As Michel declares: "Children consume and fracture our lives – but what do we know?"
This is a highly-enjoyable, fast-paced production, deftly directed by Brian Harrington, that was much appreciated by the audience.
© 2016 Newbury Weekly News
Veronique - Lisa Harrington
Michel - Neil Dewdney
Alain - Stephen Holcomb
Annette - Luisa Rayner