Kate Wassell reviews the evening for Lippy
After watching and adoring the LUU production of ‘New Labour’ in November, I had my expectations set high for whatever ‘God of Carnage’ may turn out to be. Tense; raucous; hilarious — this one act play was nothing like ‘New Labour’, but undoubtably worth seeing.
The play begins slowly and quietly, with short civilities and long awkward pauses. The four actors, who play two sets of parents attempting to settle a fight between their sons, build up the tension wonderfully. Phoebe Graham, who plays feigned Annette, is particularly good at prolonging the uncomfortable, but laughable restlessness between the characters with her exaggerated expressions.
At what first appears to be a satirical depiction of middle-class snobbery, soon spins off into chaotic and unpredictable events — all while tapping into the (sadly predictable) avenues of gender and marriage. Alan, husband of Annette, is infuriating and hysterically glued to his phone, barely pretending to care about his son’s violent actions. Luke Holland’s portrayal of Alan is subtle but bang-on: his eating of the tart Veronica has prepared for her guests is an early comedic highlight of the play – taking at least three slices and polishing them off within seconds, much to the amusement of rival husband Michael and to the disgust of Annette. These small moments simmer cleverly, building up the moment where Annette violently vomits over her guest’s possessions. The directors have really outdone themselves with the props here — not to spill set secrets, but the cushion Annette buries her face in just before she spits liquid all over the stage might have something to do with it…
The domestic politics of ‘God of Carnage’ remind me of Ali Smith’s novel ‘There but for the’ — with a laughable divide between global matters that the characters pretend to be interested in, and their small, sheltered matters that send them into dismay. Veronica’s irritation at Annette being sick onto a book titled ‘Africa’ seems less about Veronica’s keen interest in ‘that part of the world’, as she calls it, and more about her prized coffee table possession. India Martin plays uppity, intellectual Veronica with witty preciseness – demanding that the women be given a whiskey too, before plunging into wrath at her disappointing husband. The characters shared obsession with moral rightness sends them into a frenzied breakdown, with Michael’s ‘murder’ of the family hamster becoming more of a central topic than their own son’s playground aggression. Charlie Crozier, who plays Michael, does a great job of acting ‘both sides’: his character seeming genial, pleasant and tolerable in the first half before descending into near bigotry in the second. With scraps and brawls galore by the end of the play, we see the characters stripped bare of all niceties.
The spilling of the tulips at the end of the play is the perfect image to encompass what we’ve just witnessed. Surviving even Annette’s spewing, the perfect flowers are the last of all the seemingly precious things to be chucked, and with them all pretence and falseness is gone. Whether accidental or not, it’s a nice touch that the actors are surrounded by a stage of strewn flowers by the play’s end. I’m sure if the audience had flowers of their own to throw, they would.
Words by Kate Wassell
Photo credit: Abby Swain