God of Carnage
By Yazmina Reza directed by Richard Thomas
When two little boys fight, it’s up to their parents to act like adults, but that wouldn’t be much fun for the audience, would it? God of Carnage descends from a middle-class discussion into a sitting-room version of playground bullying as the parents engage in a comedy of manners without the manners.
Direction (Richard Thomas) was confident, intelligent and pacey, the lines never overloaded with unnecessary portent. Setting the play in Frome worked really well, with local references which had the Fromies chuckling.
The cast of four were strong, convincing and word-perfect. Astrid Calloman played Veronica – an uptight helicopter parent full of moralising tone and quibbles over language. She inhabited her sitting room with ownership, letting us know who runs the house. Her relationship with her husband Michael had some complexity which lifted the pair out of straightforward stereotypes. Her passive aggressive handling of comments about her clafoutis recipe were lovely. Her final breakdown was very well done.
Michael (Ian Sanderson) was a subtler interpretation, which worked well. He’s a self-made wholesale trader, and more grounded than his wife. He defends his business in retailing toilet parts with some dignity. Whilst not exactly a likeable character (none of them are) I, at least, felt some sympathy for him. This is to the credit of Ian’s wry interpretation delivered with just the right amount of energy to make it work. I enjoyed his moments of affection and complicity with his wife as much as those when he sees through her moralising.
Al Brunker played Alan, a lawyer never off his phone. He’s an alpha male, rather proud of his bullying son, and believes in the God of Carnage. Al played the character with huge confidence and flair. His pace and projection were strengths of the production and his physical presence was always there, dominating and aggressive. He was well cast as a credible partner to his wife.
Annette (Becki Bradley) must have been fun to play, with the gradual build into handbags at dawn and an absolutely sensational vomit of clafoutis all over Annette’s art books. All of the actors handled the drunkenness skilfully, but I thought Annette’s character was especially convincing. Her cry of “I wipe my arse with your Bill of Rights” was a highlight. How the upchuck of clafoutis was achieved is a mystery to me!
Credit goes to Polly Lamb for most of the props, which added plenty to her slick and well-managed production skills. Sound (Simon Bowman) was perfectly cued, and costumes (Rosie McAllister) were well-chosen statements about the characters: Veronica’s would-be “look how earthy and liberal I am” dungarees contrasting with Annette’s more professional look.
The set, built by Sam Dent, furnished by Polly Lamb and lit by Harvey Lamb and Will Davis, was just the job: two solid sofas facing each other in a sitting room where African war masks eye the conflict from the walls. It was smoothly crewed by Tabitha, Oliver and Harvey Lamb. The publicity (Migs Jacques) clearly worked, as the production sold out.
Hats off to you all for such a great production!