Review – God Of Carnage

August 16, 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩  Successfully uncivilised

Felicity Cullen as Anette Reille in God of Carnage. Photo © Jon Davey Photography

Felicity Cullen as Anette Reille in God of Carnage. Photo © Jon Davey Photography

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241)
Mon 12 – Sat 17 August 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

Yasmina Reza’s pitch-black comedy provides a challenging vehicle for Arkle Theatre at The Royal Scots Club. It features two couples, the Vallons and the Reilles, who meet to discuss how to respond to a fight between their respective sons.

However, it quickly becomes clear that the adults have problems of their own, and the meeting soon descends into chaos.

This play puts great demands on its cast, who are all on stage throughout most of the ninety minutes. As the veneer of polite society cracks, tempers fray and alliances shift. To reflect this, it is imperative to keep the pace and tension up, and this is achieved for almost the whole play.

Pat Hymers, as the proudly ‘fundamentally uncouth’ Michel Vallon, manages to work himself up successfully from a state of puzzled apathy to a sweating mass of neurotic anger. However, having reached such a pleasingly frenetic state, he has nowhere else to go and a little subtlety is lost. Lorraine McCann is suitably prissy as his self-satisfied wife Veronique,  but is not as convincing when she is asked to show passion.

Felicity Cullen (Anette Reille) manages to convey frustration and intoxication equally well, but does not quite suggest she is half of the ‘power couple’ the Reilles undoubtedly believe themselves to be. Jonathan McGarrity is thoughtful and pedantic as lawyer Alain, but needs to show more aggression in his constant berating of his minions over his mobile.

Nothing less than self-deluding, simple-minded prejudice

Where all four actors really shine is in their ensemble playing. They manage to achieve an excellent rapport, meaning the play has pace and rhythm. They are helped in this by John Lally’s clear-sighted direction, and by some outstanding technical work. John Weitzen’s lighting is particularly good, while presumably the ‘special effects’ credit for Craig Robertson and Chris Allan refers to the lovely vomiting episode – in which case, three cheers for them.

The  pace only slackens towards the end, and with good reason. Throughout much of the play, the characters protest that there are justifications for their behaviour – such as Alain’s invocation of the God of Carnage of the title, a kind of ‘everyone for themselves’ deity of chaos.

However, it suddenly becomes clear that what fuels their outbursts is nothing less than self-deluding, simple-minded prejudice. First there is insidious sexism, which soon gives way to stark, ugly racism and homophobia. This should come across as shocking and more than a little frightening, but the cast here do not quite have the power to bring this off; instead it comes across as something else to laugh at. Unfortunately, it just is not funny.

Much of what has gone before has been successful, however, and for the most part the considerable ambition of the production is fulfilled.

Running time 1 hour 30 minutes
Run ends Sat 17 August 2013
Daily at 8.30 pm
Venue 241, The Royal Scots Club, 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE
Tickets from www.edfringe.com
Arkle Theatre website: www.arkletheatre.co.uk

ENDS

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