God of Carnage

The French-cum-Australian cast of God of Carnage

This article first appeared on Buzzcuts, Express Media’s cultural arts blog.  

There’s a certain joy in watching personalities clash with one another on stage – yet that joy is somewhat nullified when you can identify with the victims of the theatrical parody. Picking up on the idea that parental relationships can be just as tumultuous as those of children,God of Carnage is a clever – but unfortunately flawed – 90-minute production, and much of its potency comes from its ability to hit close to home.

Ironically, the play’s greatest weakness is that it fails to take this idiom more literally; rather than locating the events in a Melbourne context, the actors pretend they are in France. While the location doesn’t compromise the central notions, it is nevertheless a noticeable enough feature to detract from the performance’s authenticity. Put simply, bourgeois French people – with distinctly French names – don’t speak in Aussie accents. Likewise, Australians don’t greet one another as “monsieur”, or use the term “grass” as an insult.

These issues could have been resolved with some very simple tweaking, and it’s a real shame the writers missed this invaluable opportunity. After all, the beauty of God of Carnage is that it exposes immaturity as a universal trait – something that defies surface characteristics such as age and nationality.

The performance is also let down by some inconsistent acting. While all four leads have their moments, three quarters of the cast are at times unconvincing.

Chris Martin’s Alain is smug and hateable – as he should be – but recites his lines in an excessively methodical manner. Melina Wylie’s characterisation of Veronique – a self-assured leftie with a passive aggressive streak – is similarly accurate, but is occasionally over-exaggerated. Her habit of turning her face away from the audience is also distracting.

Armando’s portrayal of Michel is perhaps the most intriguing of the quartet; given the character’s fickle behaviour, his role is most challenging. Nevertheless, Alain’s comment that Michel is far more authentic when angry has more than a bit of truth to it.

To somewhat counter the thespian limitations of her companions, Michelle Myers’ Annette is an ever-reliable constant. The silent tension between Annette and with her work-obsessed husband (Alain) is palpable, and is considerably more believable than the restless relationship between Veronique and Michel.

While this assessment appears rather negative, it should be reiterated that God of Carnage is actually quite an enjoyable play. In spite of its weaknesses, the play’s script is funny, profound, and relatable. Moreover, the aesthetics – including the edible food props – create the ideal setting to complement the sparring players.

God of Carnage has finished its run at the Fringe Festival. More information on Pop Culture projects can be found on their website.