God of Carnage: Get Uncivilized!
Reviewed by Jeunes critiques
February 15, 2013 Friday at 6:04 pm
Jenna Naulls is a student in the theatre critics course taught by Yana Meerzon at the U of Ottawa
After an 18 month hiatus, Third Wall is back with a vengeance. They have proven that if you take a risk, a functional and symbolic set, a sharp script and a group of well-known equity actors, you can make anything happen. This production of “God of Carnage” was certainly worth the wait.
The story focuses on two married couples (Alain and Anette Reille and Michel and Veronique Vallon) who are meeting in the living room of the Vallon residence to discuss a physical altercation between their two sons. Over the course of their conversation, the civilized demeanour of the four adults breaks down and leaves them acting like children themselves. They question each other’s every action and intention; Anette vomits from stress, Michel breaks out the rum and Veronique empties the entire contents of Anette’s purse on the ground. They tear each other, and themselves, down until a number of them whisper, “This is the worst day of my life”.
The set, courtesy of Brian Smith, transports the audience to what feels like a showroom of an Ikea. The table is decorated with a pile of perfectly placed coffee table books on art – though you wouldn’t know that until the play alludes to their content. The square platform, with one of the four corners acting as centre stage, and the curtains that shape the room are white. The couches are grey, the coffee table is black with a wood top and even the props like the pop cans and the bottle of rum are void of a label. The set, like the characters, is lacking personality until the characters break down and show their real emotions. I think the symbolic use of the set helped support the idea of the script; it’s easy to pretend to be perfect, until you make a mess.
Yasmina Reza’s play was done justice by the direction of Ross Manson. The script reads almost like a high speed game of tug-o-war, where the players switch allies every 5 minutes. The staging of the show portrayed this concept perfectly – every few minutes the actors would switch places on stage so that they were paired up with someone else. When Alain and Annette were on the same couch, they were fighting against Veronique and Michel. Later in the show, when the teams change, the two women are sitting together drinking rum on the two chairs near the back of the stage complaining about their husbands, while the men sit on the couch and discuss rum and cigars. The physical portrayal of the alliances on stage was a well used device that allowed the script to flourish.
The show was well cast with four known Ottawa actors: Kristina Watt, Mary Ellis, Todd Duckworth and John Koensgen. All four did an excellent job of portraying characters that begin with their walls up and continue through the play on their journey to becoming (as Michel would say) “F**king Neanderthals”. A special mention goes to Ellis, whose breakdown was slower than the rest, but extremely powerful as she successful masters the woeful sobs of the French melodramatic genre. Additionally, the facial expressions and subtle mannerisms of Kristina Watt were entertaining to watch whether she was the focal point of the scene or not.
Overall, Third Wall has proven that taking a risk, letting go of fear and praying to the god of carnage was definitely worth the reward.