Skimming through a description of God of Carnage, you could be forgiven for assuming that it is simply a comedy about adults arguing. However, see the show at the Nottingham New Theatre and you will discover that it is so much more than that.
In the play, two couples meet to discuss an incident in which the son of Alan Raleigh (Harry Bradley) and Annette Raleigh (Ellie Cawthorne) violently hits the son of Michael Novak (Tom Gladstone) and Veronica Novak (Verity Spencer). The play begins with the two couples meeting and speaking in a civilised manner about the matter, but soon descends into hysteria. The topic of conversations shifts randomly, and the four characters form arbitrary alliances against each other again and again throughout the show.
The pace hopped from calm to chaotic countless times.
The pace hopped from calm to chaotic countless times. This contrasts with how the play is traditionally performed, whereby it begins with the characters speaking peacefully, but gradually builds into a storm of mayhem, with the characters falling back into the kinds of childlike behaviours for which the sole reason of their meeting was to deter. This modification certainly gave the show a different dimension which worked well; especially apt for a play in which no big events or scene changes occur. Having said that, it still seemed just a little too long, at around 1 hour and 30 minutes with no interval.
On the one hand, staging the show in the thrust was effective in making the audience feel as though they were in the room with the characters. On the other hand, certain characters often occluded others due to this staging. This was a shame due to the importance of seeing all of the characters’ facial expressions simultaneously, as this may have brought out more of the comedy inherent within the script. Although the humour in this play was certainly utilised, it was not to the extent that it could have been. For example, certain awkward pauses and looks towards the beginning could have been exaggerated a little more. Sometimes it was unclear whether there was an awkward silence or simply hesitation over a forgotten line.
Certain awkward pauses and looks towards the beginning could have been exaggerated a little more.
Still, Ellie Cawthorne, playing Annette Raleigh really brought some slick comedy, as well as not holding back when going on a full on flower rampage! Her sadness and desperation, when the other three characters take alliance against her was also extremely convincing and moving. Alan Raleigh, played by Harry Bradley took the crown for the actor who really exploited the humour that the play is so well-known for. He, extremely convincingly, played a business man, uninterested and disengaged from the discussion which the other three characters.
Harry Bradley took the crown for the actor who really exploited the humour that the play
Veronica Novak, played by Verity Spencer was impressive in her regression to childlike behaviour, again skipping from sophisticated to immature and pedantic throughout. It was highly amusing to see her snap at each of the other characters in turn, only to then compose herself, jumping back to her superficial courteous self. The New York accents were overall impressive, only with a few minor slips which were to be expected. The accent demonstrated by Tom Gladstone was particularly notable, as while the other three adopted convincing American accents, Gladstone nailed the New York twang.
The accent demonstrated by Tom Gladstone was particularly notable.
In addition, the costumes were fantastic (although the festival bands of ‘business man’ Bradley did make an appearance!) and the set was just as realistic. This show is definitely worth a watch.
God of Carnage is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 9th November. For more information and ticket reservations visit http://newtheatre.org.uk/