Peter McGarry is an experienced,
independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to
review Talisman Theatre productions.
God of Carnage
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The
Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content
of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.
Perceived normality can be just a step away
from psychotic intensity. It needn't take much to peel off
the outer layers and expose the demons beneath.
This cleverly-conceived play presents a powerful challenge
of staging through its microscopic views of latent passions
hovering below the surface. Its black-comic effectiveness
hinges on a production that is both knowing and daring. In
this instance, it has not been short-changed.
As two sets of parents meet in an attempt to conciliate over
a physical set-to between their young sons, director Steve
Smith with admirable subtlety develops an atmosphere of initial
cordiality over polite conversation about tulips, wine and
a dessert recipe. He then reveals it to be cracking around
Cue a splendidly bravura performance from Chris Ives, losing
her rag and storming about the stage, revealing the long-held
and alcohol-fuelled repressions of a tired marriage.
Dazed and eventually stirred into action by the onslaught,
Matthew Salisbury's delightfully lugubrious husband finds
himself accused of murder (a hamster) and forced into confessing
a phobia for all things rodent.
Against such vocal aggressors, Pete Gillam and Sarah Campbell
bring the other couple to amusingly defensive life, he to
have his mobile phone business world snatched cruelly from
his grasp, she to forcefully reject insinuations about their
beloved Ferdinand having disfigured his playmate.
Writer Yazmina Reza set the play in France and while its broad
features are essentially Gallic, the theme of quarrelling
parents descending to playground levels is universal. Brian
Tuck's set design cleverly strikes a social middle ground
to house the increasingly manic events.
These could easily be rendered purely as high farce, but the
quality of direction and performances here ensure that the
play's darker elements are fully realised. And yet it is all