facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

God Of Carnage

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 18 April 2008

Despite an electricity failure which threatened to bring the marital warfare to an abrupt conclusion, the two couples in Yasmina Reza’s new comedy God Of Carnage continued their mutual self-destruction to the bitter – if liberating – end. Caroline Bishop was at the first night at the Gielgud theatre to see the fall out.

Upon the expanse of Mark Thompson’s vivid red set sit four people – two couples who have come together at one of their homes to discuss, with carefully constructed reason and politeness, why one couple’s son hit the other couple’s boy with a stick and knocked his teeth out. This is the scenario which French playwright Reza, in Christopher Hampton’s translation, uses to dissect class, gender, marriage and family values in 21st century middle class society.

You can recognise the slippery slope upon which these four people will slide from the beginning, when whatever feelings they truly have about their children’s behaviour are glossed over with a veneer of coffee and cake, small talk and poise. But it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable that you can see what is coming – a gradual slide from politeness into veiled digs, then emotional battles and near fisticuffs as the four tear into each other, ripping away all superficiality to expose the unhappiness and vulnerability beneath.

Let’s blame it on the men. While Janet McTeer’s politely forceful, preachy Véronique (mother of the toothless victim) and Tamsin Greig’s nervy Annette (mother of the stick-wielding child) at least attempt to have a sensible, smooth conversation about their sons’ behaviour, the men – particularly Annette’s lawyer husband Alain (Ralph Fiennes) barely disguise their disinterest. Rude yet suave, Alain makes no bones about having more important things to do than discuss his child, whom he readily declares a “savage”, while Veronique’s straight-talking salesman husband Michel (Ken Stott) does not give the discussion the weight his earnest wife feels it deserves.

Sparked by Alain’s incessant mobile phone calls and a spectacular fit of vomiting by anxious Annette, the civility dissolves into personal attack and bullying – pitting couple against couple and husband against wife – which reduces them to the level of the school playground. Except, unlike their children’s physical style of dispute resolution, the adults’ predominantly verbal battles seem all the more hurtful and destructive. And yet, with all pretence thrown to the wind, they seem to like each other better.

There is as much humour in the nuanced delivery of these four esteemed actors as in Reza’s lines themselves, and with its bouts of vomiting, handbag throwing and wanton tulip destruction, this is an enjoyable, attention-grabbing production. It may not be the first play to dissect the modern marriage, but, given the amount of juicy material the 21st century family seems to provide, it will not be the last. br />


Sign up

Related articles

Due to the current pandemic various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows. Please bear with us as we try to keep this page as up to date as possible. If you find a mistake, please let us know by emailing enquiries@soltukt.co.uk. If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

For more than 40 years, TKTS was our on-the-day theatre ticket box office in Leicester Square. Currently closed due to the current situation, we are now selling our great last minute seats and prices online. Click here to learn more.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.