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BITING SATIRE REFLECTS US ALL

Print Version

GOD OF CARNAGE
by Yasmina Reza
directed by Anton Bentley
presented by Piece of Work Productions

at Uxbridge Centre, 35 Uxbridge Road, Howick, Auckland
From 18 Feb 2013 to 23 Feb 2013

Reviewed by Adey Ramsel, 19 Feb 2013


Piece of Work Productions have produced another classy and stylish piece of professional theatre in the suburbs. Operating out of Howick's Uxbridge Centre, the company have plumped for an award-winning modern comedy, after successful seasons of The Glass Menagerie and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).

Yasmina Reza's God Of Carnage play wowed London, Broadway and was taken to heart by all professional companies round the world; it has now started on the am-dram circuit but somewhere along the line I always missed it. Watching it tonight (in a co-op production) you can see why it appeals. It has something of us all in it and something for everyone.

The four adults, brought together to discuss their sons' argument and subsequent fight, represent us in various degrees of hostility, repentance, shame, anger and fairness. They are Everyparent. Each character goes from A to Z, from reactive to proactive, in their attempt to fight for their child, husband/wife, and way of life.

It can be likened to a mathematical equation in that every conceivable combination is tried. Each character sides with one in turn, against another, and all display the aforementioned emotions at each twist.

But this is no boring, clinical study of a show. This is biting satire that shows each and every one of us in an all too scary mirror. Being a father of three year olds I saw myself up there in a few years time. Oh, dear me.

Director Anton Bentley has staged the play simply and without fuss, as the script dictates. In the cavernous stage space the Uxbridge offers the cast of four move with certainty around the set, though at times it feels as if moves are carried out with too much precision in finding their next position.

As high as it is wide, the stage is unforgiving and the cast do well to throw the script out to us, though the first five minutes were lost in the lofty rafters, as they found their feet in front of an audience.

It is interesting to note that Director Bentley has decided to keep the play in its original French location, which does jar slightly with place and character names, keeping us one step away from the action. The Broadway production changed names and locale to fit where they were and I can't see any reason why the script cannot be adapted to New Zealand.

Carleena Walsh and Terry Hooper, as rich well-to-do couple Annette and Alain, display all the charms of money and social climbing, each emotion worn entirely in their bank balance.

Hooper manages to instil every line with Alain's lack of emotion, whilst displaying a savage and cruel dog-eat-dog attitude towards everything in life from children through to death.

Wife Annette is slightly more reserved but when provoked proves she has more bite than bark. Walsh manages to hold herself up and beyond the other couple even in the throws of a vomiting fit, which, I have to say, is the best, without doubt, I have seen on stage. Again delivered without fuss, set up or fanfare Walsh, builds up to the episode and comes through it with as much dignity as she entered it. That scene I would like to see again.

More down to earth, but still barking mad, couple Michel and Veronique are played more moderately by Stuart Bradbury and Fiona Bailey. Allowing Walsh and Hooper to occupy the high and deep range respectively, they settle for the middle ground but never once loose their point or argument.

Bradbury at times was slightly hard to hear, the wing space being too large for subtlety but his quiet moment on the couch whilst the other three argue around him is priceless. 

Bailey's hyper-sensitive Veronique is prissy, cold and not a woman you take to, though you do raise a cheer when she manages to bite back at Ronnie.

Only running for a week, this is another example that quality professional theatre is being produced in the suburbs and we don't have to pay a fortune in parking to see it. Timing was slightly out of kilter in front of the opening night audience and it did look as if the cast were waiting for laughs in some places where none came. Let the audience do the work and they'll tell you when they want a pause.

Just under an hour and a half, with no interval, this is a gentle night out, with great performances from a gem of a theatre company. 
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Comments

John Smythe posted 20 Feb 2013, 05:03 PM
 

In principle I do not approve of transposing plays from elsewhere into a New Zealand setting because it deludes us into thinking we are hearing our stories, and we're not. Other cultures have a right to be seen and heard as they are, via themes that are universal and timeless.

Of course when plays are translated from other languages the only logical thing to do (with Reza, Chekhov, Ibsen, Brecht et al) is to use our own voices to represent the native language of the play. But keeping the original names and place names reminds us of the origins.

It is the USA's loss – and their problem – that they are so insular they cannot relate to a play (or TV series) unless it is made to seem like theirs. Xenophobia, it's called.  

New Zealand actors have become highly skilled at adopting international accents – hence our ability to take roles in international TV, films and stage plays. That's our win.

But nothing is more important, and more authentic, than our telling our own stories in our own voices, for ourselves and the rest of the world.

“Know thyself,” as the Delphic Oracle said.

“To thine own self be true,” as Polonius said.

For “the purpose of playing,” as Hamlet said, “… both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”

Anton Bentley posted 22 Feb 2013, 12:13 PM
 

I agree with John and his reasons for not transposing plays to New Zealand, but as the director I did consider it.  The language and rhythms of the English version of God of Carnage, quite simply, did not sound like us.  Interestingly the American version probably would have worked but both the cast and I, having read both, felt that the language had be 'simplifed' for the US and that it had a 'dumbed down' quality.  I guess this serves to illustrate what a great wordsmith Christopher Hampton is and his ability to write for both sides of the Atlantic.  Ultimately though, if a play is well written and performed the themes are clear and audiences will relates to it and make connections etc.  The audience feed back has been great with many punters commenting that they 'know' these characters.

Simon Taylor posted 22 Feb 2013, 12:41 PM / edited 22 Feb 2013, 12:00 AM
 

nothing is more important, and more authentic, than our telling our own stories in our own voices, for ourselves and the rest of the world.

nothing is more important than ownership.

except when, as here, the play's the thing.

http://squarewhiteworld.com/dear-visitor/2010-2012/letter-to-the-prime-minister-of-new-zealand/ 

Adey Ramsel posted 22 Feb 2013, 01:00 PM
 

No, this isn't the point I was making. (I agree with what you've both said so far), maybe I should have been more explicit - the point being that we have four characters talking in kiwi accents and suddenly they come out with a string of foreign words/names - not UK, nor USA but foreign language. I'm not for transposing the script to NZ or anywhere for the sake of it, (it works as is), but replacing a word or two to make the flow easier, so for a few seconds after some audience members aren't thinking to themselves, "What was that?" :)