God of Carnage was originally a French play titled, Le Dieu du Carnage by Yasmina Reza, the script was translated in 2008 by Christopher Hampton. Centred around two couples, Veronica and Michael (Freema Agyeman and Martin Hutson) and Annette and Alan (Dinita Gohil and Ariyon Bakare), who meet to discuss a playground incident between their children. The interaction starts off very civilised but as the afternoon progresses their behaviour becomes less filtered and they squabble like children on the playground, flirting with the idea that “behaving well gets you nowhere”. 

Credit: The Other Richard

The set and costume design by Lily Arnold, is at the forefront of this production. The stage is a white circular living room set detailed with stylish furniture, a traditional warrior mask, and coffee table art books, which tell us a lot about the characters before the play even begins. The aesthetic is everything, with each item placed with precision, emphasising the concept of keeping up appearances. The stage moves on a slow revolve, which amplifies the passing of time, showing us different angles throughout the play, which feels symbolic. The costuming coordinates with this aesthetic and indicates information about the characters; Veronica’s dress is more free-flowing than Annette’s straight-legged trouser suit. 

The dialogue is refined and specific; at first, the characters are monitoring their behaviour and speaking with social niceties, however as the play develops we get glimpses of their real thoughts and blunt emotional responses. Towards the end, as the characters become drunk and rowdy these niceties are thrown away and they speak with complete truth, expressing things that can even be quite shocking. This commentary reflects on how we as individuals, and as a society, are all to some level fake and intrinsically selfish. Seeing an amplified exploration of this leaves the audience with much to ponder. Bakare does an excellent job of capturing the directness of Alan’s true thoughts, and Hutson displays Michael’s ignorance perfectly. Agyeman and Gohil again show the contrasts between their characters through their physicality, Veronica uses over-the-top dramatic movement and Annette is more precise and monitored. 

Credit: The Other Richard

As the play unfolds it’s interesting to watch the dynamics of the characters constantly change – the couples start united with their partners but the four quickly interchange between who they agree with depending on the conversation – highlighting how our true loyalties lie only with ourselves. 

Nicholai La Barrie’s direction builds tension towards the end, as the character’s reactions to each other become more amplified, keeping the audience intrigued. There are moments where the arguments almost embody a soap opera-esque feel, and humour is abundant, which provides relief for the audience and often highlights the individual characters’ flaws. 

God of Carnage is a heavily concept-driven play, with a wonderful set design and talented cast. While at times the plot can feel as though it is moving slowly, overall, this is an interesting watch that reflects the state of our world, leaving the audience with much to reflect on. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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