Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Review: God of Carnage at The Lace Market Theatre. Nottingham

Director Graeme Jennings has made a terrific job of bringing to life this one act play by Yasmina Reza (English translation from the original French by Christopher Hampton) at Nottingham's premier amateur theatre - The Lace Market Theatre.

God of Carnage is about the breakdown of two supposedly sophisticated and successful couples after they meet to politely discuss the potential solution of their young sons fighting and the resultant missing teeth of the young son of the Hunts - in whose modern and stylish house we meet the protagonists and remain in their company for the duration of the play.

The set design is of a very modern apartment based on a black and white hop scotch pattern and it serves the play perfectly with the designer, Emma Pegg, creatively following through on Reza's staging notes of ' a living room, no realism, nothing superfluous. With some colour highlights this is a monochromatic world that according to the excellent programme notes "alludes to the barely concealed conflict between the characters." Deliberately, only the two artfully arranged vases of flowers and the red carpet and cushions bring any bright colour to the set.

Easy going Michael Hunt (Hugh Jenkins) tries to reason things out with Alan and Annette Raleigh and attempts to form a friendship with Alan through recognition that all boys fight and that it is part of the growing up process. Alan Raleigh superficially goes along with this man talk but is constantly at the beck and call of his mobile phone. Fraser Wanless plays the arrogant Alan to perfection. This is no one dimensional character portrayal however. Wanless subtly switches his role from mood to mood whether he is speaking his business demands down the mobile phone or temporarily comforting his wife Annette (Emma Nash) after she has been dramatically sick on stage. He controls and commands the stage with Alan's persona and is the master of wry humour.

Photo by Mark James.

This is a demanding four hander and the performances are very professional especially from the actresses Sarah Taylor and Emma Nash playing the wives. The women go through a vast array of emotion throughout the play and Taylor and Nash bring out very truthful performances through their body language and barely controlled emotions that go from socially polite to sudden outrage and lack of control.

Hugh Jenkins plays the most sympathetic character in Michael Hunt, a man who just wants to keep the peace yet finds himself getting out of control with a toxic mix of problems including his mother constantly calling up for health advice and his weird decision to set the family hamster free to fend for itself in the wild. He valiantly tries to cope with all this, alongside the trauma caused by his son being attacked and injured by another boy. Jenkins plays the sympathy card well with this well rounded character, always at the ready with the hair drier to fix every disaster.

                                                              Photo by Mark James

On the surface the play could be perceived as a serious polemic on the breakdown of social morals caused through lack of compassion, uncivil and  selfish behaviour, stress and exacerbated by too much rum and it does have this in the background but the evening's entertainment was that of laughter as the characters descended into ridiculous childish behaviour. There are some fantastically funny situations and lines and the actors worked them to perfection. This is another 'must see' at the Lace Market Theatre.

The performances run until the 19th October.

Tickets can be booked online or by ringing the box office. Lace Market Theatre link.

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