Full disclosure – The God of Carnage is NOT, as I first assumed upon hearing the name of Valley Artists latest production, the blood soaked account of a psychotic deity’s rampage across the muddy fields of some medieval wasteland (as much as I would like to see Bob Philippe depict such mayhem).
What it is however, is a thoroughly engrossing 80 minute depiction of two, very much small ‘c’ civilised couples progressively ripping into each other both verbally and physically while entirely failing to sort out the branch wielding shenanigans of one son that led them to meet in the first place.
The often blackly comic action, played out entirely in Craig Howe and Micaela Elphick’s painfully tasteful lounge room (wonderfully rendered as always by the VA’s set creation team) flows nicely from early brittle politeness through to increasingly bitter accusation and finally to the out and out carnage alluded to in the title. In a performance without breaks and absolutely jam packed with dialogue, all four actors barely miss a beat.
Darren Philip’s horrendously pre-occupied lawyer is a joy to behold as he constantly answers the call of his (ultimately doomed) phone while Karen Jones does the business for Valley Artists once again as his increasingly desperate, increasingly nauseous, then increasingly pissed and phoneocidal, wife.
On the other side of the room Micaela Elphick and Craig Howe show just how uncomfortable it is possible for two unhappily married people to be. I pity anyone on the receiving end of one of Micaela’s withering looks in a non-stage setting. Craig for his part provides many of the play’s most humorous lines, even if a fair number of them are at the expense of a hamster that is tragically missing, presumed dead, at his hands.
The play benefits greatly from running uninterrupted by interval or scene breaks allowing the action to rampage forward in truly chaotic fashion as intended by its author Yasmena Reza. Bob Philippe’s experienced hand on the directorial wheel is of course steady as always and the production values are of Valley Artist’s usual high standard. Catch it over the next week or spend your life wondering why you didn’t.
27 May 2016.
Can Pay. Should Pay….cause it’s entirely worth it.
Just to make clear the political orientation of this play – on more than one occasion, it pointedly accuses the Communist Party, yes that Communist Party, of being not really left wing enough. So not likely to be on Andrew Bolt’s list of things to see and almost definitely absent from the National Curriculum being currently prepared by our duly elected Minister for Education.
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How long have you been a part of the Valley Artists?
I’m one of the founding members of VA and was involved in the first production “Come To Pieces” in 1998, just over15 years and more than 30 productions ago.
As director of CPWP – what number play does this make for you in a directing capacity?
This will be the 12th show I’m directing for VA.
What made you choose to do this one? Are you a fan of this particular playwright?
I’d become aware of Dario Fo and his plays “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” and “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” in my last year at NIDA in 1980 and was really taken by the dynamic nature of the writing, the physical style and the cheeky Commedia dell’arte influence.
I’ve been working through my wish list over the years and this time when I took Can’t Pay down from the bookshelf it seemed right.
I am a fan of Dario Fo, along with many thousands of Europeans and people all over the world. He is a very clever satirical writer and indeed a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Do you think it is timely given the state of the world at the moment?
Yes for many reasons and not just political ones. For a start this is a very funny play and it seems to me we can take ourselves bit too seriously at the moment so to laugh at ourselves is healthy. Beyond that, in Australia, we are seeing rapidly rising food prices, manufacturing industries closing, those in authority abusing their powers and unfair pressures on the lower income earners. These were the issues on Fo’s mind in the late 70’s.
What are you hoping that people who see the play walk away with?
They will walk away with smiles on their faces and over time I hope reflect on the messages within the fun.
As a director, do you follow a formula or science if you will in how you relate to your cast and crew or does it depend on the production?
Each production is different with different genre requirements. My last production, “Across the Water” was naturalistic in style and required that form of study to get as close as possible to the truth of life of the characters. And so that informs the rehearsal style.
This one though is a different animal again. It‘s a farce; fast, funny and physical, so rehearsal is tailored to that.
When we start I don’t know all the answers but I trust the process and my companions. This is a collaborative art form.
It’s good for our actors, directors and indeed our audience to experience a broad range of theatrical styles and over the years I think the Valley Artists team of people have provided just that to our community.