The God of Carnage

10 Dec

Two couples meet, with the intention of maturely discussing a fight between their children. It’s a neat comic set up, which playwright Yasmina Reza employs to good use.

It’s built upon an enduring myth, a common assertion: that what we call civilization is actually a thin veneer over our essential savagery.

So broad an assertion borders on meaninglessness. It certainly resists easy discussion of its truth or falsity.

So I’ll ignore its veracity, for now, and discuss its appeal.

Why might people choose to believe it? What is the possible purpose of this assertion?

Perhaps it’s an ethical indictment. There are harsh aspects of our society, but we either forget them or choose to ignore them. For example, most of us feel we live decent lives, even though we know there are people elsewhere who are quietly starving.

But there’s another possible purpose of the assertion that we are, in fact, savages. It justifies our moral failings. ‘It‘s just human nature, so how can I be to blame?’

God of Carnage

This production, directed by Steven Hopley, is high energy and good fun. The cast (Jacki Mison, Chris Miller, Hailey McQueen and Yannick Lawry) deliver lively, engaging performances. On the night I attended, there were a few problems with rhythm and pacing, but these are difficult to avoid considering the absurdly tight parameters Reza puts on the setting. Despite the building tensions, the characters must remain in close proximity.

In a single room.

In France.

This production transfers the setting to Australia. (Though there are some disquieting references to Le Monde and the repeated use of the word ‘madam’.) Are these characters Australian? You could question if the relocation works, if you assumed the play is meant to be representational.

Alternatively, you could let the play be an intriguing tease. It tantalizingly offers an old chestnut of reductionism, a broad generalization of supposed universalism, and laughingly asks “Is this really true?”

Veronica Kaye


The God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza

Downstairs TAP Gallery

26 Nov – 7 Dec. (This production has closed.)

Twisted Tree Theatre

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