REVIEW: God of Carnage at Cambridge Arts Theatre, marvellous writing, wonderful performances - but a flaw on the masterpiece

PUBLISHED: 09:50 04 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:17 04 February 2020

Nigel Lindsay as Michael and Elizabeth McGovern as Veronica in God of Carnage. Picture: NOBBY CLARK

Nigel Lindsay as Michael and Elizabeth McGovern as Veronica in God of Carnage. Picture: NOBBY CLARK

©Nobby Clark

God of Carnage by Yasina Reza, is an attack on the pretentiousness of the bourgeoisie.

One child hits another with a stick and knocks out two teeth.

Two sets of parents meet at the home of one couple to discuss things in a civilised manner.

God of Carnage by Yasina Reza, is an attack on the bourgeoisie.

The two couples, when they are still at their civilised stage, almost agree that Freddie, the young assailant, must apologise to his victim Henry.

Almost, but then things turn sour.

In the ensuing verbal and physical battle, it's not just one couple against the other, it's men against women and husbands against wives.

With the exception of one word, this play is a joy. Stupendously well written, immaculately performed with comic timing to dream about and aspire to. This is a masterclass in ensemble performance and comic delivery. Lines that are nothing on the page are so funny they make you cry with laughter when you hear them said.

But there is that one word.

And strangely, and for me utterly gratuitously, it comes from the character who it seems has the best grip on reality. He's hospitable and reasonable. He's very funny and we like him.

He is down-to-earth Michael, played immaculately by Nigel Lindsay, the husband whose home we are in, the self-made man who sells bathroom fittings. We warm to him because he is unpretentious.

He warns us that his wife, Veronica, (played with fierce energy by Elizabeth McGovern) has put a middle class veneer on him: "We bought tulips and my wife passes me off as a leftie."

But towards the end of the play, when he accuses her of hypocracy for concern about people far away, it's a shock to hear him attack her for caring about "c--ns in Africa".

The play isn't ancient. It opened in 2006. It has been translated by Christopher Hampton, so the words aren't inherited from the 15th century. They are a choice.

It is written for now. Freddie's mother Annette (a very amusing Samantha Spiro) is in wealth management.

Freddie's father Alan, a cynical lawyer played impeccably by Simon Paisley Day, says: "The god of carnage has ruled since the beginning of time."

Yes clearly. It's not just children who hit each other with sticks.

The God of Carnage is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 8.

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