Robert Schonberger at thought home

While watching The death of Mr Lazarescu …

When there’s a new play in town, like God of Carnage, that wins awards around the world, you can expect it to come to Sydney fairly quickly. Thats kind of What happened. First performed in Zurich in December 2006, Then March 2008 in London, February 2009 in New York, and now, October 2009 in Sydney. The Sydney Theatre Company God of Carnage production is playing in the opera house, overlapping with the sold out Streetcar Named Desire production nearby, so they have a bit of competition for an audience.

God of Carnage is about two couples who get together to sort out a fight between their sons where one of them had his teeth knocked out. Both couples meet cordially in one of their homes, and try to resolve what to do. Instantly, we see 4 different personalities, people who’ve chosen different paths in life. There’s a lot of comedy to be had at the expense of how different the couples are to each other, and the conflict between all four of them. The women are aghast that their boys fight, and the men are proud that their sons are standing up for themselves, and reminisce over their own childhoods.

Though the four of them get together cordially, the meeting falls apart quickly, with absolutely no agreement over how the boys should sort out their violent differences. After a while, the parents don’t care, really, they’re just talking about their own lives, and their own problems. The focal point is that of Alain, a high powered international lawyer who takes business calls every few minutes, which annoys his wife and the other couple too.

The four of them sit around, baring their feelings of disappointments and achievements in adulthood, and remembering their childhood. It gets ugly, violent, drunk and messy. Which is exactly why it’s so funny and endearing.

The play is only 90 minutes though, which is great for a comedy, but means that whatever great meaning you want to put into a play, or however great the characters portrayed are, they’re not quite fully done. The play ends without a perfect resolution, and without a great moral, without a great theme. It is funny though, which is the important thing, even if you’re not a parent, or you’re not married. The play works because it talks about universal problems and experiences, which is great; But the names, foods, and location of the play is still meant to be French, while the characters are speaking perfectly Australian English. It just felt a bit odd.

It’s worth seeing, if only for a good set of laughs, but I don’t know how it’s the best play of a season. Maybe the production in New York or London were different.

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