God of Carnage

God of Carnage
By Yasmina Reza. Pymble Players (NSW). July 20 – August 13, 2016

When one 10 year old boy hits another with a stick in a park in Paris, their parents agree to try to settle the matter amicably. As any parent – and playwright Yasmina Reza – knows, such encounters can be a little hazardous! From a strained but polite beginning, the tenor of the meeting declines until the behaviour of the boys is almost forgotten as tempers rise, accusations fly and etiquette is forgotten.

Director Dave Went describes the play thus: “This is a play that could just be about four angry people, especially as each of the characters, at some moment in the play, reverts to the behaviour of a eleven year old kid”, but playwright Yasmina Reza “one of the most incisive, clever and wickedly-funny playwrights around” illustrates that human flaws and failings can be very funny.

Went and his cast have accentuated this to bring to Pymble a production that finds both the comedy and the underlying truths of the plot. To do so Went has insisted on a pace that accelerates as politeness and good manners are thrown to the wind. This pace is seemingly no problem to the four actors who are able to define and sustain their characters despite the escalating tension and complicated stage business that adds to the humour of the play.

Allan, a lawyer, and father of the offending child, inaugurates this. He is obviously not in favour of the whole situation, and makes this abundantly clear by constantly taking mobile phone calls without apologising or attempting to move out of earshot. George Trippis, immaculately dressed in three piece suit and tie, shows the disdain and impatience of this character in a tight, controlled performance, his constant pacing setting the tempo of the first few scenes.

His wife, Annette, is conciliatory, anxious to right the perceived wrong but just a little nervous. Nicole Brennan, as Annette, epitomises this from her first tentative words and actions. Passively compliant initially, she becomes increasingly disturbed and physically upset, eventually throwing the whole situation into hilarious turmoil.

Margareta Moir plays Veronique, mother of the ‘victim’ and initiator of the meeting.  Moir shows the both the strong control of this character as well as the bubbling unrest beneath the almost arrogant surface. She is a strong presence on the stage, dominating both the initial discussions – and the chaos that ensues.

Her foil – and husband – Michel is played by Peter Rhodes, who obviously revels in finding the various dimensions Reza (and Went) have suggested for this character. Unlike Veronique, Michel is more relaxed, even a bit nonchalant at first treating the whole situation more as a social visit. Rhodes makes the most of the contrast, and develops it as the pace escalates, physcalising reactions with comedic skill and carefully controlled timing.

This is a fine production that brings together a director and cast who know how to have fun as well as making a good play exciting to watch.

Carol Wimmer

Photographer: Des Harris / The Picture Desk

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