Strip away the thin veneer of civilisation and we’re all savages.
You’d hope that adults would be able to rein in their inner Neanderthal but Yasmina Reza begs to differ. When the chips are down The God Of Carnage rules supreme.
The Tring Festival Company has been staging Reza’s comedy of bad manners at The Court Theatre, Tring, this week and I’d recommend catching tonight’s final performance.
The 80-minute black comedy holds nothing back, not even vomit.
The God Of Carnage opened to commercial acclaim in 2008 and was adapted to the screen by Roman Polanski. Personally I never though the film version caught the visceral tension that a theatre audience feels as things develop between the protagonists.
We’re in Paris and two sets of parents are meeting to discuss a playground spat between their 11-year-old sons.
Bleeding heart liberals Veronique and Michel Vallon have an injury insurance claim that they want corporate lawyer and trophy wife Alain and Annette Reille to agree to whereby their son admits liability (only in France, I guess).
The two couples meet at the Vallon’s flat and initially the conversation is forcibly polite.
But it doesn’t take long before tensions arise and all-out war is declared.
The bickering and taunting, accusations and insults are constantly interrupted by Reille’s mobile ringing as he attempts to diffuse a legal situation with one of his clients.
Both men reveal that they have a sneaking admiration for how their son’s sorted out their differences while the women, outwardly so caring, soon turn into screaming fishwives after a few drinks.
There are uniformly excellent performances by the cast of four. Jenny Giles, as Annette, is shockingly authentic as a drunk and a real pro at delivering one of the vilest moments in any play.
She deftly handles the changes in her character’s attitude when Annette realises that her son is as much a victim as the injured boy.
Director Ian Gower has toned down a lot of Reille’s cynicism, boorish behaviour and Alpha male aggression. Instead actor Dennis Fugard plays him as detached and unemotional.
You’re thrown a bit by Michel He starts being the concerned parent but some pretty ugly truths soon emerge and Colin Hubbocks handles the part with confidence.
Michel has some of the best lines declaring “marriage is the most terrible ordeal God can inflict on you. Marriage and children” while his wife, who cares more for the dying in Darfur than the state of her marriage, states indignantly “I have no sense of humour and I have no intention of acquiring one”.
Emma Russon gets the best out of Veronique starting the play with that softly spoken, caring and concerned voice adopted by social workers and right-on moral crusaders.
But her character soon reveals her true credentials and it’s not a pretty sight.
Reza’s first major hit in this country, Art, took the theatre world by storm with its satire on bourgeois values and behaviour and God Of Carnage carries on the theme.
There’s a subtle reference to the earlier play with Art’s white painting hanging on the wall, probably the last thing you’d expect left-wingers like the Vallons to possess and emphasising the hypocrisy of its owners.
The last performance is at 8pm tonight.