God of Carnage

God of Carnage’ is an 80-minute play by French writer Yasmina Reza, wonderfully translated by Christopher Hampton. In 2009, ‘God of Carnage’ was given the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

It is being presented by The Garrick Theatre Club, at 16 Meadow Street, Guildford, showing at 8.00 pm (some adverts wrongly state 7.30) nightly until 14th September, with one matinee on Sunday 8th September at 2.00 pm.

The scene is the sitting room of a Parisian apartment. The set is black drapes for the side walls with a lilac rear wall of flats decorated with African tribal masks. There are two white settees, a drinks cabinet and a small side table with a vase of flowers.

Two 11-year-old Parisian boys, Ferdinand and Bruno, were playing in the local park when Ferdinand shattered both of Bruno’s incisor teeth. Bruno’s shopkeeper father, Michel (Jarrod Buttery) is middle-class and easy going. Bruno’s mother, Veronique (Sherryl Spencer) writes books about the poverty in Sudan and is much more serious in her approach to the world.

In a civilised manner, Veronique has invited the attacker’s parents around for coffee and homemade clafoutis to discuss the situation. When the other parents arrive, they find to their horror that the father, Alain (Dean McAskil) is highflying solicitor representing a major drug company and his subdued wife, Annette (Anna Head) a financial planner.

Veronique thinks that the best way to get a good recompense for their ‘seriously injured’ and ‘perfect’ son is to ingratiate herself. Similarly, Annette is charming, but strongly defensive of her son. The husbands? Well they were lads once, and don’t really want to be there anyway.

It soon becomes apparent that the smooth approach is not going to work. Just when a solution appears to be taking place, a brief side comment by one of the parents will throw the whole situation into havoc again. When the pressure is turned up, allegiances change, attitudes alter, Annette develops a nervous stomach and the parents behave much worse than their boys ever did.

The decision was made to split this 80-minute play into two parts. A strange move as this whole play relies upon the build up of tension and suspense; although the cast were magnificent by returning after the break fully charged, for the audience the idea was not a wise one. I would be surprised if the director, Lynne Devenish, made that choice.

The cast selection was perfect. Four exceptional performers, who on the whole, have not been seen regularly enough. They flowed faultlessly from one mood to another, as each one rode the rollercoaster of emotion. The changes in pace were perfectly controlled as passages of anger, admiration, frustration and pure hell arrived.

Clayton Reichert’s lighting was simple but effective, with Mike McAllan’s sound effects being flawlessly operated by Elizabeth McAskil.

A great script, very well presented. All parents have been in similar situations; however, here it was extremely funny. A quality production in the award winning league.