Tuesday, July 16

God of Carnage – Schauspiel Köln at Depot

Director Tristan Linder’s adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s original French play, translated and performed in German with English surtitles, skewers modern bourgeois society which is torn between enlightened goodness and all-too-human egoistic competition.

Two eleven-year-old boys have fought on the school playground with one hitting the other with a stick which results in the loss of a couple of teeth. As civilised people, the parents decide to talk things through together. So Véronique (Lola Klamroth) and Michel (Alexander Angeletta), parents of the victim, Bruno, invite Annette (Sabine Waibel) and Alain (Jörg Ratjen), parents of the perpetrator, Ferdinand, to discuss over coffee and biscuits, a more consensual and politically correct way to influence the behaviour of Ferdinand in line with modern accepted Western social mores.

But when more archaic impulses burst out, there is a real question over who the real culprit was after all, as the afternoon rapidly degenerates from teasing to verbal sparring through to fisticuffs. With liberal doses of black humour littered throughout, nothing is held back, and as touchy-feely pretences are stripped away, we discover that in the end one person always keeps the upper hand: the God of Carnage.

Sebastian Bolz’s set design is simple with four chairs, three side tables, and a variety of household objects, which along with subtle lighting effects from Michael Frank and musical arrangements by Alexander Schweiss, support the unfolding story, without detracting from our focus on the cast and the behaviours on display which takes them from composed adult through to the tantrums of their inner child.

The cast of four are part of a wider ensemble at Schauspiel Köln and the production rightly benefits from their natural chemistry in creating two believable sets of parents, each with their own distinct quirks: Klamroth’s Véronique is instantly recognisable as someone who always says and does the right thing to whom Angeletta’s Michel very much plays second fiddle although the afternoon’s events begin to help him find his voice. Waibel’s Annette is suitably supercilious whilst Ratjen excels as the lawyer Alain who as dislikeable as he is perhaps offers the most honest assessment.

The challenge of this play is to keep it believable as each character is turned and twisted to their extreme and with this excellent cast, Linders has maintained the perfect balance between drama, farce, and black comedy: I lost count of the number of calls for an encore.

Schauspiel Köln is a theatre and company in Cologne which together with Cologne Opera and other companies, perform at the opera house but due to the ongoing major refurbishment at Offenbachplatz, has been performing at Depot at the Carlswerk site in Cologne Mülheim since 2013. Further details https://www.schauspiel.koeln/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 3rd May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.