Written by Yasmina Reza, ‘God of Carnage’, a play that was originally written in French and translated by Christopher Hampton, graces the stage of the Players Theatre in Cheadle Hulme this week. Directed by Bruce Taylor, this was certainly an interesting performance choice from an amateur theatre company. Having been lucky enough to see Reza’s play ‘Art’ in London’s West End in the late 1990’s it was exciting to see another of her plays. ‘God of Carnage’ was certainly a challenge to an amateur theatre company.
Proud owner of a Tony Award in 2009, the story is set in a New York apartment. It relays the story of two couples, ‘Veronica’ (Sarah Howsam), and ‘Michael’ (Matthew Powell). The second couple, ‘Annette’ (Alexandra Severn) and ‘Alan’ (Christopher Billington) are invited to discuss ‘an altercation’ that occurred between the couple’s children at school.
There is an attempt to be civil to each other at the beginning of the evening but as time goes by and with the addition of free-flowing alcohol, the two middle-class couples demonstrate a masterclass in passive aggression. In many ways this is a smoke screen for further fighting and ironically, as the couples continue to argue over their offspring, they become very childlike themselves and the audience gain insight into what the state of both couples marriages are, both positive and negative.
As the performance was a play with only four actors on stage it was essential for the script to flow effortlessly. For the large part it certainly did, however at times some of the ‘incidents’ on stage were slightly ‘over egged’, such as the vomiting episode of Annette and the repetitiveness of Alans mobile repeatedly ringing. The point of this was certainly not lost but perhaps a more subtle, calmer execution of these occurrences would have been more interesting for the audience. With only four actors on stage everything was magnified to the max.
Sarah Howsam demonstrated much stage presence as ‘Veronica’ and her execution of the script was effortless. Her indignation of the way her son was ‘injured’ was clear from the offset. Her relationship with ‘Michael’ (Matthew Powell), was comfortable throughout.
Alexandra Severn demonstrated the most comedic timing on stage and interacted well with Christopher Billington (Alan). Billington was easy to watch and displayed a consistent a tension on stage with Severn from the offset.
Set design (Bruce Taylor) was simple and effective and was perfect for the story as it allowed the audience to focus on the dynamics of the characters on stage. The sense of the apartment being in a box was well executed, with red lighting framing the stage (Sophie Billington and David Oliver). The box like set appeared to try and contain the larger than life characters and certainly succeeded.
Companies like Cheadle Players should be applauded for taking on stories as this one. ‘God of Carnage’ was amusing, dark and thought provoking in relation to the pretences in relationships and how some marriages are actually not what is first presented. In parts the play was repeatedly ‘over emphasising’ various aspects of the story and perhaps wasn’t entirely necessary.
Presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd, ‘God of Carnage’ is on at The Players Theatre in Cheadle Hulme until 2nd December and tickets are available from https://www.playersdramatic.co.uk/tickets Reminders for all that it is a play with strong language and has no interval.
It is a production that will leave audiences with a great deal to ponder over as it highlights the very worst in people.
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 27th November 2023
North West End UK Rating: