God of Carnage at the Lyric Hammersmith. Photo by The Other Richard

God of Carnage Reviews

Reviews are coming in for the revival of God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza at the Lyric Hammersmith, starring Freema Agyeman.

Directed by Nicholai La Barrie, God of Carnage is playing at the Lyric Hammersmith to 30 September 2023.

The cast features Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who, Dreamland) as Veronique Vallon, with Ariyon Bakare (His Dark Materials) as Alain Reille, Dinita Gohil (The Father and the Assassin) as Annette Reille, and Martin Hutson (Small Island) as Michel Vallon.

The play is translated by Christopher Hampton (The Third Man), with design by Lily Arnold, lighting design by Richard Howell, sound design and composition by Asaf Zohar, and casting by Heather Basten CDG.

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God of Carnage reviews

The Stage

"Uproarious farce"

"Exuberant performances animate this revival of Yazmina Reza’s award-winning dark comedy"

"Exploring the fine line between civilised behaviour and savage self-interest, Reza’s poised dialogue – translated from the original French by Christopher Hampton – combines philosophical musings with a relentless stream of withering barbs."

"Director Nicholai La Barrie establishes a heightened, farcical tone, keeping his cast fussing about in attitudes of strutting overconfidence or twitchy anxiety. As the show goes on, subtle gestures and sidelong glances grow increasingly exaggerated, until the performers are hurling themselves over the furniture and bellowing with unrestrained fury..."

"Agyeman is thoroughly believable as melodramatic, moralising Veronica, relentlessly signalling her own dubious virtues. Hutson gives a fine comic turn as her weaselly, condescending husband Michael, shocking himself with his own outbursts then visibly wilting, emotionally exhausted by the confrontation."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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"Slick and punchy revival of Yasmina Reza’s ‘00s phenomenon comedy"

"I imagine Reza would probably write ‘God of Carnage’ a little differently today. But Nicholai la Barrie’s first revival is a very fair production, that adds a few subtle, modern touches without trying to actually get away from the essence of the writing."

"It is, in many ways, an exquisitely wrought study in passive aggression. If the couples were a little happier in themselves, the play would end after five minutes."

"What La Barrie’s revival – which has a brilliant so-tasteful-it’s-a-bit-creepy revolving set from Lily Arnold – captures well is the inherent falseness of all four characters."

"It’s lost some of its teeth: post-‘Clybourne Park’, post-‘Fleabag’, it simply doesn’t feel outrageous anymore. Humour has moved on. Some of the characters’ preoccupations feel a bit dated. It feels like good satire rather than brilliant satire."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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The Evening Standard

"Only comes alive in its final moments"

"When it sparks into life, Reza’s play is more potent than ever: it’s social media writ small, people at their worst saying whatever the hell they want"

"By taking life and turning it up a notch, by having them all act so much like they’re acting, La Barrie doesn’t quite trust the play to work on its own terms. As translated by Christopher Hampton, Reza’s dialogue has a machine-tooled rhythm. La Barrie’s production never quite finds that precision. It’s like someone playing the drums and never quite hitting the metronome beat."

Tim Bano, The Evening Standard
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The Observer

"The set is the star in a heavy-handed revival of Yasmina Reza’s tale of parents at loggerheads"

"Carnage is more direct than Art, but it moves towards strenuous disagreement by minute gradations."

"The problem in Nicholai La Barrie’s production, which I saw at its final preview, is the action itself. Even if you have guessed that mayhem is on its way, you should be surprised by the distance travelled between start and finish. You won’t be here."

"... physical exertion and emphasis enter the arena too early with the actors. They won’t let the lethal words do their own work. Freema Agyeman is the worst offender, acting out each line with wagging arms, yet everyone overdoes it"

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
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The Times

"Fizzy parenting comedy falls flat"

"Yasmina Reza’s play about two sets of parents who meet up because of an issue between their children needs crack comic performances if it’s not to turn into a shouty ding-dong of ill-concealed grievances and blatant hypocrisy."

"Everything is too close to the surface to be much fun in Nicholai La Barrie’s production, though. Without a sense of two real relationships at play, all four performers batter the comedy into submission."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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The Telegraph

"Yasmina Reza’s sharp-eyed comedy of parental manners is sadly blunted"

"Reza's tale of two sets of parents trying and failing to resolve an incident involving their offspring falls flat in this new staging"

"It’s skittish stuff, but if only director Nicholai La Barrie trusted the truth of the material more, and made less of a theatrical meal of it. Instead, the tone is laboriously declamatory, not understatedly uptight."

"As the much-liked companion Martha in Doctor Who, Freema Agyeman managed to make hokum sound plausible; here, as Veronica, she makes ordinary lines sound stilted. She’s at her best when she goes fully histrionic but she’s still operating in a vacuum, her style barely correlating to those around her."

"A surprisingly strained night, then, which confirms there’s no easy path to box-office salvation: no matter how tried and tested the fare, there’s no such thing as a safe-bet."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Independent

"Freema Agyeman comedy is mannered and unsubtle"

"Yasmina Reza’s 2008 comedy wavers on the edge of a meaty, satisfying point that never materialises"

"You’d expect a revival from west London avant-garde powerhouse Lyric Hammersmith to dismantle its formulaic, drawing-room comedy feel in favour of something a bit more European but director Nicholai La Barrie’s approach plays things pretty straight. The biggest choice here is the acting style: it’s big and oh-so-mannered, something that works in the later slapstick scenes but just feels a bit painful in the early moments."

"As Veronica, Freema Agyeman (aka Doctor Who companion Martha Jones) delivers a performance that wouldn’t disgrace a Restoration comedy, clutching her chest or collapsing on a couch like she’s literally, rather than metaphorically, dying of social awkwardness."

"... this play has a highbrow sheen to it that’s not backed up by much actual thinking about savagery and politeness. The coffee table is wrecked, but the thick, glossy, learned books that sit on it remain unopened."

Alice Saville, The Independent
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God of Carnage

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📷 Main photo: God of Carnage at the Lyric Hammersmith. Photo by The Other Richard

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