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God Of Carnage

15 October 13 words: Adrian Bhagat
The thin veneer of civilisation is shrugged off as two middle class couples descend into savagery
God Of Carnage at the Lace Market Theatre. Photo by Mark James
Images: Mark James

Yasmina Reza's play, originally in French but translated here into English and to London, is a black comedy of manners. After a fight between their eleven-year-old sons, two sets of middle class parents meet to discuss the situation in an adult and co-operative manner. Gradually tempers fray, angry words are expressed and the scene descends into chaos as the God Of Carnage takes control.

Initially the characters exchange false smiles and there is an undercurrent of class competitiveness as the two couples size each other up in a power play.Veronica and Michael (played by Sarah Taylor and Hugh Jenkins), whose son is the injured party, at first have the moral high ground. Alan and Annette (Emma Nash and Fraser Wanless) are on the back foot as their parenting is under examination, not least because Alan's attention is constantly diverted by telephone calls in which he lies about the safety of a pharmaceutical company's product.

God Of Carnage at the Lace Market Theatre. Photo by Mark JamesAmongst the moralising and expressions of parental responsibility, these middle class pretensions are soon discarded, quickly followed by the facade of happy family life until immorality is exposed and the thin veneer of civilisation is entirely shrugged off.  Loyalties are dropped and new alliances made - as the couples argue, the women unite against the men, the men assert their caveman instincts until everyone unites against Alan and his constantly buzzing mobile phone. It's interesting that the observations on social class in Reza's excellent script translate so well across the Channel, suggesting Republican French society is not so very different from class-obsessed Britain.

You may have seen Roman Polanski's excellent film adaptation, Carnage, starring Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet. If so, you will be prepared for the moment at which Annette chunders copiously across the coffee table, an effect which is rendered very convincingly in this production.

The amateur cast of four fill their demanding roles very well and director Graeme Jennings keeps the tempo up bringing the play to a close in ninety minutes, without an interval. Despite the brevity, it's quite exhausting to watch and also a joy, funny and dramatic at every turn.

God Of Carnage runs at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 29 October 2013

The Lace Market Theatre website


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