Clash of the mums: Elizabeth McGovern as Veronica and Amanda Abbington as Annette in God of Carnage

God of Carnage, Theatre Royal Bath

The knives (or rather the sharpened spears) are out in Yasmina Reza’s savage black comedy which sets two sets of parents at each other’s throats. An assembly of spears hangs above the stylish round lounge designed by Peter McKintosh in Lindsay Posner’s production of Reza’s God of Carnage. The four characters continue to plunge their savage verbal spears into each other over their petty disputes which widen into politics and beyond as the insults fly. Husband against husband, wife against wife, couple against couple.

The 80 minute clash begins when Alan (Ralph Little) and Annette (Amanda Abbington) visit the home of Veronica (Elizabeth McGovern) and Michael (Nigel Lindsay) to discuss how to deal with a violent dispute between their respective 11-year-old sons. And the fall-out never really ends although Reza moves it to the point of concluding at times only for an ill chosen parting shot to restart the arguments.

The Theatre Royal Bath production of God Of Carnage by Yasmina Reza

Reza constructs the play so that each of the four parents becomes the protagonist as they round on one or all of the others taking it in turns to trigger another round of arguments, accusations and tirades. Vomit, violence and too much rum follows as a range of issues spill out from the adults as they resort to childlike insults and clichés. From racism to homophobia and from misogyny to feminism and from moral choices over dodgy medicine to how to bring up your children Reza slips in big topics to reveal the flimsiness of society’s superficial views.

Getty nasty: Nigel Lindsay as Michael and Elizabeth McGovern as Veronica. Elizabeth is Cora Crawley in Downton Abbey

The cast convinced from the opening moment with the cracks begin to show between businessman Michael and his left leaning wife Veronica while Annette was clearly irritated by Alan’s addiction to his mobile phone. First class performances in a play that uses the awkward silences as well physical clashes and those throw away lines that have devastating consequences. It’s at times excruciating, shocking and surprising with so much fun derived from our recognition of the naked truth of how we all behave.

God Of Carnage:  Pics by Nobby Clark

So much is packed into the tightly constructed living room bust up with shocking incidents and many a home truth that the 80 minutes races through to perhaps an inconclusive finale leaving the questions raised unanswered. Unless, you agree with Alan’s analysis of life and his belief in, the God of Carnage.

Harry Mottram

Reviewed at the Saturday matinee, September 15th, 2018.

Originally written in French and set in Paris by Reza the play at Bath was translated by Chrisopher Hampton. The 2006 drama has previously won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and the Tony Award for Best New Play with different casts. This 10th anniversary production was part of Theatre Royal Bath’s summer season which concluded on September 15th.

A film version in 2011 was well received by critics with the title of Carnage and featured Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christopher Waltz and John C Reilly with a screenplay by Roman Polanski who also directed the movie which was moved to an American setting.

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