Ten years after it first took to the stage in London starring Ralph Fiennes, and seven years since the film release starring Kate Winslet, this new production of the God of Carnage has a lot to live up to. Opening at the Theatre Royal in Bath, director Lindsay Posner has pulled out all the stops to revive this well loved play.
When two sets of parents meet to discuss an incident between their sons, it’s all very civilised. The cast of four, made up of the well known names of Amanda Abbington, Nigel Lindsay, Ralf Little and Elizabeth McGovern, grew in each others presence and it’s not long until the antagonising begins and it descends into chaos.
The pace was balanced perfectly, not too fast that it felt rushed and forced but not too slow it seemed like it dragged. With the tension building rapidly, the absence of an interval was integral as it would have reset the atmosphere to square one.
The four character were constantly changing the dynamics by creating and breaking new alliances at the bat of an eye. As the play unfolds the characters reveal more and more of themselves, causing them to team up differently at every stage of the conversation, all whilst sending up the modern day parents.
The humour comes mostly in two forms. The shock-factor humour was magnificently executed by the actors, particularly Amanda Abbington during her state of ill health. The second comes from the satirical send up of the middle class parenting. The two couples represent the extreme archetypal parents of London in the 21st century. It’s the battle of the high functioning, business executive, power couple and the laid back, world loving, harmony spreading hippies. It’s a fight you don’t want to miss.
This ruthless comic study of middle class parenting is well directed by Lindsay Posner, but it is the four actors that shine through, each as strong as the last. With pin sharp comedic timing and painfully awkward silences the quartet had the audience engaged throughout the 80 minute scene. From frantic to blasé each parent stands strong alone as well as part of the ensemble, allowing Yasmina Reza’s fantastic script to expose the matter at hand. Her brutal mockery of the bourgeois values is genius and still feels as fresh today as it did ten years ago.
God of Carnage runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until September 15.
I originally reviewed this for the Bath Chronicle newspaper. See the story online here.