REVIEW God of Carnage

Two couples, one room. What could possibly go wrong?

Cambridge Corpus god of carnage Playroom review Theatre

This is the play for exam term. Watching people throw things, smash vases and attack each other onstage was an excellently cathartic experience, and very funny.

Director Mathieu Delaveau has struck a solid balance between brutality and humour, giving the cast and audience freedom to examine the highs and lows of human nature, enlightenment versus savagery.

At first unfalteringly polite, Alan (Miguel Borges) and Annette (Evie Butcher) have come to the apartment of Veronica (Isla Iago) and Michael (Jonathan Ben-Shaul). They drink coffee, eat clafouti (a cake, not a tart), and discuss Africa and wholesale goods. Tensions begin to rise as Alan, a high-profile lawyer for a pharmaceutical company, refuses to turn his phone off, and the couples start to bicker. Diplomacy descends into bloodsport very quickly, and ugliness begins to come up – literally. They start drinking, marital loyalty disappears, clothes come off and the Kokoschka is ruined forever.

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Michael (Jonathan Ben-Shaul) is ready to discuss things in a civilised manner

The actors take the carnage into their stride, hilariously becoming increasingly hysterical but toeing the line before it becomes farcical. Their physicality shifts as the play progresses, swinging from sullenly childlike to animalistic venom, drawing out uncomfortable moments as well as crushingly vitriolic ones. A few missed lines can be excused due to opening night, as the cast were definitely able to show the edges of the satire within the script.

There is no “lead actor” because each character has a quarter of the lines, again adding an impressive level of balance to the chaos and keeping the audience on their toes for who will erupt next. Iago’s overdramatic and over-neurotic Veronica is consistently one of the strongest presences onstage, throwing out intellect and pretense as well as bitterness and physical violence, and Borges’ alpha male lawyer Alan dominates the small space as he paces back and forward, obliviously on the phone.

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Alan (Miguel Borges), preparing for a calm and mature discussion

Staging God of Carnage in Corpus works massively to the production’s credit. The claustrophobia of the space involves the audience almost 360°, and the designers did an excellent job tying the set and tech in with the play, pairing minimalist furniture and modern affectations with stark bright lighting – almost like an interrogation – merging into blood red as the play draws to a close. The uninterrupted action onstage was kept going at an engaging pace by the simplicity of the tech, supporting but not over-complicating the production.

A very clever, very funny show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, God of Carnage is an exercise in schadenfreude and a good excuse to indulge in people behaving very badly.

4/5 stars