To know ourselves, we must know what we will fight for. All four characters in God of Carnage fight against each other – and very rarely reflect upon their own failings. This is a play about how conflict with the outside world clarifies and sharpens our own character, through our opposition to others’ points of views.
Conflict in God of Carnage is created through two groups of parents‘ apparent desire to resolve a falling-out between their children. Alain and Annette’s child has hit and broken two teeth of Véronique and Michelle’s child. However, despite initial mature airs, the adults soon lose any sense of moderation, and themselves turn into quarrelling children. This play is therefore an intimate descent into savagery.
All the actors gave impressively dedicated performances of both polite respectability and of raw rage – not a mean feat! Michelle (Poddy Wilson) was particularly compelling to watch, showing an authentic range of emotions whilst remaining a grounded character. Her partner, Véronique (Imogen Front) provided the main source of energy, keeping the play buoyant. However, her movements were slightly exaggerated and there was a lack of palpable physical tension between her and Michelle – although if the intended effect was to intensify Véronique’s isolation and being stuck in her own space, then this was successfully conveyed. Alain (Michael Yates) and Annette (Bella Stock) were a much more unified couple, in the way they dressed, moved, and spoke. There was a real sense of uniformity in how they wished to be seen, and this level of subtle chemistry was noted. They also both had a great level of enunciation, which really brought the wit of the script to life. I did however find the transformation of Annette from rather meek to a prowling aggressor not to have been completely convincing, and it would have been satisfying to see Alain lose his temper more. Indeed, it was only Alan who did not become completely neurotic or depressed – and ironically, that was a shame.
The Frenchness of the play was very much emphasised – and understandably, because this is the work of the famous French playwright Yasmina Reza. Firstly, the actors’ efforts at French pronunciation should be applauded. However, I must say that the very accurate translation of French expressions, which tend to be very dramatic, did not quite come off as natural in English. Being desperate in French is a much more common expression than when an English person says it – therefore, an already dramatic play was probably over intensified through its translation. The choice of music “Tout plane pour moi” at the start of the play was very good, creating a sense of electricity and movement in the air. However, I did find the choice of “Aux Champs-Elysee” to finish the play to be rather confusing. I do however feel that this sensitivity is completely due to the fact that I am French – and that if one is not looking for accuracy, it is a completely charming depiction.
Director Alison Hall has successfully brought to life a play with primal animalistic emotion, witty dialogue and charismatic actors.So, if you fancy seeing people’s true disgust of each other, some witty insults and a general sense of civilised chaos, then I would whole-heartedly recommend God of Carnage!
Image Credit: Matt Coleclough