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Comedy, tragedy, or something inbetween

Review: God of Carnage

The whole of the latest production by the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society is not the sum of its parts. ‘God of Carnage’, written by Yasmina Reza, now playing at the Daylesford Theatre, has been brought to the stage by four competent actors, well-directed by Cistian Jones, on a fantastic set, and yet, and yet...

I confess I do not find ‘drunk’ funny, just terribly, terribly sad, and that may be why I can’t decide whether this satirical commentary on modern civilisation is a tragedy with funny bits or a comedy gone astray. Oscar Wilde it is not.

Let me be clear that I don’t believe the production itself is the problem. Despite some first night wobbles and a little dragging of the pace at the beginning, the acting was sound. Robbie Godfrey and Lizzy Hadler playing Alan and Annette Butterfield and Laura Bardgett and Alan Brooks playing Veronica and Michael Gibbons were well-directed and well-rehearsed and the action unfolded on a marvellous set one that vividly created a sense of exotic East Africa in middle-class suburban Bermuda.

I’m just not convinced that Alan and Annette Butterfield and Veronica and Michael Gibbons could in their entirety be real, though some traits in each character are recognisable.

Narcissistic lawyer Alan and retiring, eager-to-please Annette, with a career in wealth-management, have been invited to the Butterfields’ home to discuss the altercation between their sons, Freddy and Edward.

Edward and his gang apparently accused Freddy of being a grass and Freddy responds by hitting Edward with a stick and damaging two teeth. The incident gets lost in the parents’ efforts to solve the matter in a ‘civilised fashion’ that becomes increasingly uncivilised as the evening progresses. Flamboyant, artsy Veronica, with an interest in the anthropology of East Africa, and her reserved husband, Michael, would have made interesting subjects of an anthropological study themselves and become increasingly earthy as the evening unravels.

There is some good physical comedy, particularly after Annette is ill. “Puking seems to have perked you up,” Michael snidely comments and it certainly perks up the play.

There are some great lines which will resonate with most, the comment that the Gibbons as Freddy’s parents provide “mitigating circumstances” for his behaviour, for example, is classic, and I think many may nod in recognition of Annette’s declaration that “that mobile [phone] makes mincemeat of our lives”.

But there isn’t 90 minutes worth of witty repartee, so that towards the end one is wishing that the Butterfields would just leave as they threaten to do and wonder why they don’t.

The play’s conclusion is shocking and I think the production should have ended in darkness, physical as well as metaphorical, without any attempt to extend the action temporally or spatially.

Dividing the set in two, with Edward, played by Keiran Hamilton, sitting still in the dark while the parents unravel in the increasingly chaotic scene below is very clever, and his slow, deliberate actions at the end offer a horrific counterpoise to the parents’ actions below. Why he should have changed into a wetsuit, however, I don’t understand an allusion to the Inbetweeners, perhaps?

Whether comedy or tragedy, God of Carnage is a commentary on our society worth reflecting on, and BMDS are to be applauded for bringing it to the local stage.

God of Carnage runs March 27 to 31 at the Daylesford Theatre, with a curtain time of 8pm. Tickets are available at the theatre box office an hour before performances and online at www.bmds.bm.

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Published March 26, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 26, 2012 at 9:36 am)

Comedy, tragedy, or something inbetween

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