God of Carnage is a play that involves four grown ups screaming at each other for an hour and a half without a change of costume, set, or lighting. On the surface Yasmina Reza’s black comedy of manners is a recipe for disaster, but it has gone on to win a string of prestigious awards after receiving critical acclaim on both West End and Broadway. And, by the looks of this production by the Singapore Repertory Theatre, it may well take Asia by storm too.
The story is set in Michael (Adrian Pang) and Veronica’s (Lea Salonga) immaculate living room when Alan (Art Acuña) and Anette (Menchu Yauchengco-Yulo) visited following an altercation between the two couples’ children. What starts off as a civilised discussion soon disintegrates, however, as social masks crack and each character’s true colours are revealed.
The fact that the play’s main theme is an exploration of how people deal with anger is tricky, for it is an emotion that can very easily be overdone. Drunkenness and tears, likewise, is often taken too far. And then there’s trying to keep the audience in stitches during the very awkward situation without being lame. Essentially, the whole play balances on a network of tightropes, all of which has to be trodden with immense care for everything to come together.
Happily, the four actors rose to the challenge and did a fantastic job overall. They have a strong chemistry between them and understand their roles very well. They know that as much as they despise each other, they also need each other because this is the most human they’ve probably ever been in their entire lives. The great thing, too, is that not one person steals the show – all four of them are competent actors who are able to make powerful statements without necessarily doing it with words. Facial expressions, scoffs, giggles or even just a look can often say more than enough.
Without trying too hard, they are able to make a debate about whether or not it’s murder to dump a pet hamster in the front porch, or whether a clafouti is a tart or a cake, very funny. The magic to this performance lies in the subtleties – it is an extremely organic and natural production that makes it easily relatable to the audience.
They also interact well with their props – Veronica’s attachment to her precious limited edition art books, Michael’s love for his rum and cigars, Anette’s constant fidgeting of her bag (and bucket, after she threw up all over the living room), and Alan’s inability to be separated from his phone – which all stand for various aspects of their personalities. Everything is on stage for a reason, and everything is utilised to their full potential to make a statement.
The set, too, is elegantly designed. The bright white and red furnishings, juxtaposed with the yellow tulips, form a deceiving backdrop of sophistication that is tellingly turned upside down and inside out by the end of the show, as all four adults have arguably acted more childishly than their kids.
Overall this is a very enjoyable performance. Like all great theatre, God of Carnage succeeds in forcing the audience to think about the social masks that we have adopted as we grew up, but also makes for a lot of laughs. I would thoroughly recommend a visit.