God of Carnage

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

25/07/2009 - 15/08/2009

Production Details


Yasmina Reza’s elegant, acerbic and witty satire GOD OF CARNAGE is the hottest ticket on Broadway today, having recently added the Tony award for Best Play to the Olivier Award for Best Comedy it won after last year’s sell-out West End run. Now, it’s Auckland’s turn to experience the mayhem as Auckland Theatre Company’s production starring Miranda Harcourt, Peter Elliott, Hera Dunleavy and Dave Fane cuts up the Maidment stage from July 23.

With her razor sharp wit and profound understanding of middle class hypocrisy, Reza’s sophisticated brand of satire slices through the fragile pretentions of the educated elite, with surprising consequences.

While her 1995 play ART savaged the meeting point between modern art and branding in a the context of male friendship, GOD OF CARNAGE peels back the thin veneer of diplomatic civility between two politically correct couples who meet to resolve a playground misdemeanor involving their sons and a large stick. As the night rolls on war is declared on politeness and allegiances constantly shift bringing all the adults into conflict with one another.

"By the end of the evening Liberté, Egalité and especially Fraternaité are knocked for six as this ‘réunion sérieuse’ disintegrates into a wildly funny slanging match. It’s a city-chic and intelligent comedy – very French, very stylish and very, very funny," says the director Colin McColl.

"GOD OF CARNAGE is the funniest play on broadway." WOR Radio (NEW YORK)

Disruptive, juvenile, irrational. Someone needs to control today’s parents.
Two highly civilised couples meet to sort out their kids’ play-ground fight.
What starts as a calm rational debate ends in an hysterically funny night of name-calling, tantrums and tears before bedtime.
Boys will be boys but parents are worse. Much worse.

"Brutally entertaining" Newsday

Miranda Harcourt returns to Auckland to play the role of Veronique Vallon, a writer and art historian working on a book about the conflict in Dafur. Lauded as an actress and director for her work in theatre, film, television and radio, Harcourt was last seen onstage with Auckland Theatre Company in SKYLIGHT.

Playing opposite Harcourt as Veronique’s salesman made good husband Michel, is Dave Fane. Renowned for his work with the Naked Samoans, Fane is a familiar face to Auckland Theatre Company’s audience having starred in NIU SILA and more recently co-directed WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED with Colin McColl.

Auckland Theatre Company stalwarts Peter Elliott and Hera Dunleavy round off the cast as the high powered and legally minded parents of Ferdinand, who stands accused of knocking fellow classmate Bruno’s front teeth out after he’s blocked from joining a playground gang.

"Metro magazine is delighted to be the premier sponsor of GOD OF CARNAGE" says Metro editor Bevan Rapson.  "We’ve heard wonderful things about the play and can’t wait to see what Colin McColl and his formidable cast do with it. GOD OF CARNAGE is entertaining, but also thought-provoking. That’s a mix Metro also aims to deliver every issue, so this is a fitting partnership.

"Be sure to pick up our annual ‘Best Schools’ issue on sale Monday (July 6). And look out for the full-page photo of the Carnage cast."

GOD OF CARNAGE brings the sophistication and chic of contemporary French theatre to Auckland.

Maidment Theatre
23 July – 15 August
Mon (27 July only) – Wed, 6.30pm
Thur – Sat, 8pm
Sun Afternoons, 4pm
Sat Matinee, 8 August, 2pm
Tickets can be purchased from
the Maidment Theatre on 308 2383
or www.atc.co.nz 

Dave Fane — Michel Vallon
Miranda Harcourt — Veronique Vallon
Peter Elliott — Alain Reille
Hera Dunleavy — Annette Reille

Set & Costume Design — Rachael Walker
Lighting Design — Nik Janiurek

Production Manager — Mark Gosling
Technical Manager — Bonnie Burrill
Senior Stage Manager — Fern Christie
Operator — Brodie Quinn
Properties Master — Bec Ehlers
Wardrobe Supervisor — Sophie Ham
Set Construction — 2 Construct
Trainee Assistant Director — Pip Smith

Tulips, vomit and insults fly

Review by Sian Robertson 27th Jul 2009

Two couples meet to discuss a scrap between their two sons, which resulted in some broken teeth.  

Middle-class bohemians Veronique and Michel Vallon have invited Alain (a lawyer) and Annette Reilles (in ‘wealth management’) to their home to try and resolve the issue in an enlightened manner. Cracks soon start to show in the civilised veneer. Eventually the animal instinct to protect one’s child (even if it’s only their honour that’s threatened) trumps these parents’ desire to appear open-minded and reasonable. Out come the claws.

Multi-award-winning French playwright Yasmina Reza’s slick satire, directed by Colin McColl, sparkles with irony and gives the well-matched cast of four something to sink their teeth into. It’s worth going to see just for some of the priceless lines that are elicited by this pressure-cooked scenario.

Carnage is a voyeuristic stew of human conflict, against the backdrop of their hypocrisy, exemplified by the morally questionable practises of Alain’s pharmaceutical company client, the treatment of a pet hamster and Veronique’s academic writings on African culture and the war in Darfur. The carnage on many levels left my cheeks rosy with hilarity and embarrassed recognition.

Peter Elliot plays the coolly infuriating Alain, who repeatedly interrupts the proceedings to answer calls from an important client in the throes of a PR disaster. It’s clear his work comes before family. He treats the children’s dispute as if it too is a legal PR problem. On the other hand, he is the most honest about his motives. His wife, Annette (Hera Dunleavy in fine form), is agreeable and keen to keep the peace, until Veronique (Miranda Harcourt) goes too far. 

Michel (David Fane) tries to play the good cop to Veronique’s unrelenting moral arbiter. He disperses the tension with distracting stories of his boyhood, inappropriate jokes, rum and cigars, all of which only succeed in exacerbating things. Like Alain, he would prefer not to have an opinion on the matter at hand. But Veronique won’t let anyone off the hook.

Filling up 90 minutes of play with a meeting between two couples to discuss a dispute between their children, set entirely in one living room, might sound like a dubious recipe. The pace does lag about a third of the way in. It becomes tedious listening to these pretentious Parisians trying to gain the upper hand whilst maintaining an air of sophistication and composure, and they appear to be going in circles.

But at some point the tension is turned up a notch and the gritted-teeth civility is abandoned for emotional honesty. Miranda Harcourt gives us permission to laugh at the patent absurdity when her passive-aggressive Veronique loses her cool and shows the ruthless, indulgent side of herself she’s worked so hard to conceal with her champagne socialism.

Tulips, vomit and insults fly. They alternately go for the jugular and then try and smooth things over, spraying perfume and offering apologies to disguise the stink of bile and hypocrisy.

Underlying marital discord surfaces as well and, with everyone’s back up, the blows are low. Needless to say, it’s not really about the children anymore. Loyalties change when it suits them: they side with each other’s partners, the women temporarily unite against the men in vitriolic tirades, but in the end it’s everyone for him/herself.

Alain remarks that ‘the god of carnage’ has been governing humanity since the dawn of time. You only have to peel back the façade: they’re no more sophisticated than their children.
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