Review by Peter McGarry

Peter McGarry is an experienced, independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to review Talisman Theatre productions.
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.

The God of Carnage (2013):
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 the edges.

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 blissfully funny.



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