As with her almost universally acclaimed 1994 play Art, Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage is another comedy of middle class manners. This time, as it was in Art, the behaviour of the seemingly sophisticated adults involved descends into something akin to a playground fight, all the more ironic, as that’s precisely what’s brought them together in the first place.
Alan and Annette’s 11 year-old son Henry has had two teeth removed, incisors to be precise, by fellow pupil Freddie. The two sets of parents meet in that frustratingly PC way to civilly decide what action should be taken to facilitate the children having “a reckoning” and to teach them about “the art of co-existence”. As the alcohol is increasingly imbibed, the adults’ best intentions go by the wayside and the mud starts to get slung and everyone’s true colours come to the fore.
Reza has a masterful touch at highlighting the foibles of the middle classes and delivering them with a punch, but it needs a strong cast to deliver. As author Veronica (currently writing a book about Darfur) Elizabeth McGovern is seemingly the voice of reason, pushing the apology/reconciliation agenda between the two boys. Household goods salesman husband Michael (Nigel Lindsay) doesn’t quite fit seamlessly into this middle class idyll, a bit rough around the edges his loyalties are tested and exposed as the evening progresses. McGovern takes a little while to hit her stride, but she ramps up the emotion and elicits the laughs as the piece reaches its conclusion. As always, Lindsay delivers an absolute masterclass in comic acting, each word and action perfectly timed, as does Simon Paisley Day as driven lawyer Alan, when not throwing well-timed barbs, he’s barking advice to his clients down his constantly ringing phone, the ever-impressive Samatha Spiro as “wealth manager” Annette, is, as always, on-point.
The dialogue is as expected, razor sharp, Reza knows her audience well, and while this couldn’t be described as cutting edge, it is hugely entertaining, escapist fun, scratching the surface of the well-polished veneer of the middle class. Well worth an evening of your time.
Review originally written for The Reviews Hub