I’m not quite sure what Yasmina Reza makes of Christopher Hampton’s sparkling adaptation of her latest play God of Carnage. She has gone on record as saying her bleak and futile view of humanity and profound insights into life and relationships are often lost in translation.
She has also said that she wants her audiences to suffer. Well, if the reaction on the night I attended the play is any indication – Hampton has let her down badly, leaving Ms Reza to sob all the way to the bank. The audience, myself included, laughed hysterically and enjoyed themselves enormously at what, in effect, is an uproarious comedy of bad manners involving two bourgeois French married couples who meet for the first time when their respective schoolboy sons become involved in a playground skirmish resulting in one of them having two front teeth knocked out.
What begins as a civilised confrontation between the two sets of parents slowly develops into a gloves off row ending in a Pyrrhic victory. In the process, both couples reveal their frailties and strengths, their dormant fears and anxieties and their emotional shortcomings and insecurities.
Hampton excavates more laughs from this all-too-recognisable situation than Ms Reza ever intended and by so doing has created a crowd-pleaser, which, like the same team’s ‘ART’, will run for years and survive several cast changes.
The present cast Janet Mcteer and Ken Stott, in whose home the play takes place, and Ralph Fiennes and Tamsin Greig as the couple whose son inflicted the damage – are absolutely superb. Mark Thompson’s blood-red living room set strikingly compliments the fiery passions aroused, and the incisive direction, alive to every nuance in the text, is by Matthew Warchus.
The West End has a towering hit on its hands. Sorry about that, Yasmina.
CLIVE HIRSCHHORN. Courtesy of This Is London.
Date: 18 May 2008
Written by: WestEndTheatre
Tags: Christopher Hampton, Gielgud Theatre, Janet McTeer, Ken Stott, Matthew Warchus, Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Greig, Yasmina Reza