Thursday, November 24, 2022

God of Carnage / Le Dieu du Carnage





Image: Jane Duong
God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza translated by Christopher Hampton.  
Echo Theatre at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, Wednesday November 23 – Friday November 25, 8pm and Saturday November 26 2022, 2pm  &  8pm.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
November 23

Director – Jordan Best; Assistant Director – Callum Doherty
Set Design – Jens Nördstrum; Lighting Design – Jacob Aquilina
Operator – Zac Harvey; Props – Jordan Best

Jim Adamik – Alan Raleigh (legal adviser to a pharmaceutical company)
Lainie Hart – Annette Raleigh (wealth manager adviser)
Josh Wiseman – Michael Novak (owner of wholesale household goods company)
Carolyn Eccles – Veronica Novak (writer and works part-time in an art history bookshop)

Stage directions:
All in their forties.
A living room.
No realism.
Nothing superfluous.

In the original French the characters’ names are Alain and Annette Reille, and Michel and Véronique Houillé.  ‘Reille’ is a baby’s name meaning ‘angelic’; ‘houille’ means ‘coal’.

Though Echo Theatre’s promotional image suggests gluttony in a grand scale, and their program even provides a detailed recipe for the apples and pears baked French dessert of fruit clafoutis, the play is an often quite excruciatingly funny satire of the very French philosophy, à la (pardon: au) Jean-Paul Sartre, known as Existentialism.

It’s the sort of play that, in Australia, could have been written by David Williamson, but the central cause of dramatic conflict is reminiscent of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap – except that the ethical conventions arising from the fact that, as Veronica states,
At 5:30 P.M. on the third of November, in Telopea Park, following a verbal altercation, Benjamin Raleigh, eleven, armed with a stick, struck our son Henry Novak in the face
are turned on their heads as the two pairs of parents battle intellectually on questions of responsibility towards others (including Henry’s hampster).  It’s hard to imagine, or for me to describe, how their twists and turns over 90 minutes can turn out to be so funny.

Yet, weirdly, the play ends without ever reaching The End, because, as Sartre might have said, as Michael says:

MICHAEL. Chances are that creature's [Henry’s hampster’s] probably stuffing its face as we speak.
VERONICA. No. (Silence.)
MICHAEL. What do we know?

Getting to and getting that ending right, with a long almost embarrassed pause with no-one moving while the lights slowly fade to black, demonstrated the professional ensemble quality in the actors, clearly working with a director with a clear sense of the sublety of the French satire.  What do we really know of the nature of our existence,  after all?

Go to The Q this week, and find out whether Benjamin really is a savage, and what really happened to Henry’s hampster.


Carolyn Eccles, Lainie Hart, Josh Wiseman, Jim Adamik
as Veronica, Annette, Michael and Alan
in God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza
Echo Theatre 2022
Photo: Canberra Photography Services