GOD OF CARNAGE (AMSTERDAM, 2019) THEATRE REVIEW – ✭✭✭✭✭

Annette (Bryony Cole) and Alan (Simon Feilder) arrive at Michael (James King) and Veronica’s (Tessa Stephenson) house to settle a dispute between their two sons, Ben and Henry. From the outset it appears Annette and Alan’s son, Ben, is in the wrong since he poked Henry’s teeth out with a stick. So it should be pretty simple to settle… right? 

Not so fast. The social niceties between the two couples don’t last long as it becomes clear Annette and Alan don’t hold their son entirely accountable for the altercation. And as their etiquette deteriorates, the laughs start coming. 

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Photo by Clint Davis

Cole and Feilder are excellent as uptight Annette and Alan. At first, they’re probably seen as the more despicable couple, but as the secrets start to unravel and the manners are thrown out the window, Stephenson’s and King’s characters, Michael and Veronica, soon fall pretty far from grace too. And the further they all fall, the better it gets to watch.

It’s the cast’s chemistry, together with Cintia Taylor’s direction, that allow this performance to be such a roaring success. No beat is missed. No shooting look is forgotten. No scream is left unheard. And the often overlapping dialogue conjures something up in us too.

“You think too much. Women… they think too much,” Alan says despairingly.

“That’s an original remark. Bet that’s thrown you for a loop,” Annette retorts back.

And we laugh because we’ve heard this before. It’s normal. But hearing it from the mouths of middle-class monsters at their wit’s end makes normal, funny. This is real life dialled up a notch, and we’re given permission to laugh – mostly because they deserve it.

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Photo by Patrick Sault

The entire play is done in just one scene – giving an 80 minute snapshot into their lives. And as it takes place in real time, the audience isn’t given a break either, which cleverly makes us feel included in the carnage. Without realising, we’re building up to the crescendo of the play right along with them. 

Oh, and the children (that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?) are never on stage.

Wait… aren’t they?

As more rum is drunk and more insults thrown, the play descends into chaos and we’re left wondering who the children are in the first place.

✭✭✭✭✭

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