Tulips and Tantrums

Published: 26-Jul-2016 by All Theatre

God of Carnage is a neat look at modern parenting taken to extremes. Take four forceful personalities, a playground incident in Paris, and an uncomfortable meeting to resolve the matter, and – voila! There’s potential for dark comedy. 

God of Carnage is not entirely what is implied by its somewhat menacing title, but there’s certainly scope for violence within its script. As protagonist Annette Reille (Nicole Brennan) asserts, “There’s more than one way to be violent.”
​The action plays out at the chic apartment of Veronique and Michel Vallon, whose eleven-year-old son Bruno had two incisors dislodged by playmate, Ferdinand, the eleven-year-old son of Allan and Annette Reille.  In an attempt to amicably settle what seems to be a clear-cut case of playground bullying, the two sets of parents agree to meet and discuss the incident in an adult manner. Hostess Veronique (Margareta Moir) begins by legalistically detailing the exact damage done to Bruno’s teeth, and the tone for the meeting is set.
​Despite a well-placed clafoutis, several collectors’ art history books, and some cut tulips fresh from Holland, this “civilised” reconciliation meeting has disaster written all over it. As the meeting progresses, all pretence of civility is swiftly swept under the designer coffee table.
More often a meaningful glance between the strained couples, a pregnant pause, and nuances aplenty, say more than words ever could. As tensions grow, tempers flare, and long-held grudges between the couples come to the surface, full-on slapstick humour emerges. As Michel, Peter Rhodes uses his tall physique to full comic advantage. As the situation gets stickier, Michel behaves increasingly like a naughty schoolboy. The irony of two sets of helicopter parents living in a sought-after Parisian neighbourhood, and then being reduced to childlike aggression themselves was not lost on the Pymble Players’ audience. There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and a few gasps, as the drama became more over-the-top.The highlight of this energy-charged play, which does not have an interval, is the destruction of dodgy corporate lawyer Allan’s (George Trippis) mobile phone. I won’t say what happens to the phone, but it’s a beautiful moment.  

Much of the humour is not spoken in this play by French playwright Yasmina Reza, though there are plenty of clever one-liners, and edgy wordplay:
Veronique: “He’s totally negative.”
Allan: “Who’s negative?”
Michel: “I am!”

There’s plenty of subtext to this play, and no shortage of awkward moments.
You may cringe, or have a guilty chuckle, but it’s a theatrical rollercoaster ride well worth the ticket.