God of Carnage is a hugely successful French play by Yasmina Reza about a group of adults who meet to discuss a dispute in a civil manner but whose meeting quickly devolves into total anarchy. Translated to English, God of Carnage has seen huge success in both London and New York. Now Third Wall Theatre has brought it home to Ottawa and into the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre.
Should you see it?
God of Carnage takes place in the aftermath of a playground beatdown between two young boys where two sets of parents meet to resolve things and we learn that, in the play’s opinion, we’re all just little boys fighting in a playground when you strip away the civil veneer we show the world.
To start, Third Wall’s set for God of Carnage is gorgeous. I love love love the raised stage in this space. Plus the stark white curtains and floor, and the monochromatic furniture — the design is simply beautiful.
It’s supported by largely strong use of the space by the director and actors, except for a few instances where everybody’s pacing around and circling enough to make you dizzy.
“Puking sure perked you up.”
Said by Michel Vallon to Annette Reille shortly after she does indeed do the deed, the statement is true. It’s also when the play itself perked up after what felt like a meandering first scene or two with at least some of the dialogue feeling a bit stilted and unnatural.
From the projectile vomit onwards though, God of Carnage is a nonstop onslaught of hostility, strife, huge mood swings, the yelling of hurtful things, and the occasional physical confrontation that saw the characters at each other’s throats indiscriminately.
It was quite a sight, to be sure, though I found myself unable to stop wondering just what drugs these folks were on. (The characters, not the actors, I want to be clear.)
Please don’t get me wrong, the performances are by and large strongly delivered by four wonderful actors and I felt the outbursts of the characters as sincere and honest. There was just no solid reason I could see for any of them to have happened. People usually need to be pushed pretty far to implode that much and, here, there were no catalysts behind the very, very melodramatic eruptions. Unless they were having simultaneous nervous breakdowns or they were on some hard drugs.
I’m not saying whether this is good or bad. It’s completely a matter of personal taste. There’s good entertainment in watching the train wreck of a group of supposedly distinguished adults go shitball crazy and devolve into absolute lunacy when the performances are strong. Which they are. It’s very compelling – if that’s what you want to see. Just don’t expect the emotional bloodbath to make a lot of sense.
Then it ends. Abruptly and arbitrarily. Nothing at all that was opened was resolved or concluded and you could have picked almost any other point in the play to call it a day and gotten the same effect.
I like to imagine that, after the final tableau, the God of Carnage himself (perhaps played by Richard Gélinas?) came out, dancing around in a pink tutu, sprinkling pixie dust, and having a good laugh. Good ‘ole divine intervention is about as plausible as drug use.
But that’s just my opininion, I want to know what you thought. Did I totally miss the point? Who were you siding with as the show went on? Tell me what you’re thinking in the comments below.
For more information on God of Carnage, including photos, video, and all the press around town, check out our article, Third Wall Theatre presents God of Carnage.
All photos in this article taken by Production Ottawa photographer, David Pasho.