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.