Review Round Up: God Of Carnage

Most famous for three-hander Art, Yasmina Reza’s latest God Of Carnage is about two sets of parents whose children get into a playground fight and stars Ralph Fiennes, Ken Stott, Tamsin Greig and Janet McTeer.

The opening night ran into trouble when Shaftsbury Avenue roadworks triggered a power failure. Once it was clear the problem couldn’t be swiftly resolves, theatre owner Cameron Mackintosh had to come on stage and apologise and the play continued in shadow. Naturally this moment of unplanned drama features in most critics’ write-ups, but what did they think of the play itself?

The Guardian’s Michael Billington praised Matthew Warchus’s ‘deft production’ though said the play left him with some ‘nagging questions’ about plausibility. Still he gave it four stars and praises Reza’s willingness ‘to tackle big themes’ and calls her a ‘born satirist.’

Benedict Nightingale in The Time also gave it four stars, saying that ‘with Matthew Warchus directing these superb performers and Christopher Hampton translating, the effect is tense, edgy and funny.’ He found Reza’s ‘acerbic wit’ and shrewd humour’ delightful even if he felt that it was ‘scepticism, rather than human logic, was manipulating her characters and determining their misbehaviour.’

As with all the reviewers, The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer was full of praise for the way the cast handled the power outage and also commended the ‘superb precision’ of Warchus’ direction. He concluded rather tartly however that the play was not as ‘profound as Reza thinks it is.’

Alice Jones, writing in The Independent was less enthusiastic. She praised Stott, McTeer and Greig, but felt that Ralph Fiennes never really convinces as a boorish lawyer and lacked the comic timing of the other performers. She also felt that this was Reza’s ‘nastiest play yet’ with the result that ‘this curious hybrid of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and Ayckbourn-esque farce’ left her feeling ‘distinctly queasy.’

Over in the blogosphere the wonderful West End Whingers (if you don’t know who they are, go forth and Google) were even less convinced by Reza’s play, describing it as ‘devoid of any basis in psychological reality’ and wondering if Christopher Hampton had used Babelfish to aid his translation. They were however full of praise for the scene of very realistic onstage vomiting, which they declared one of the very best of its kind.

God Of Carnage is at the Gielgud Theatre, London, booking until 14 June 2008

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