I stumbled upon this play by accident, finding it while browsing the Amazon web store (which has actually become a decent place to discover plays from around the world). When I looked it up, I realized that it was originally a French play translated by Christopher Hampton into English. I’ve never liked translations, as they never do the original work any justice, but this was a different story. This play was driven by the exciting and unique plot, and really shone through it’s interesting concept; adults are much, much worse than children when it comes to fighting.
Now, unlike my last review, this review is going to be more structured. I’ll be focusing on five categories; plot, writing, characters, set, and worldly affect.
The plot is the part that really shines in this play. The plot centres around two sets of parents, who’s children got into a nasty fight at school. Alain and Anette, who’s child beat the other with a stick for not being allowed in their gang, go over to Veronique and Michel’s house to discuss the matter. What starts off as a friendly conversation becomes a major battle between the two families. Their pride and ignorance get in the way of solving the issue, as they continuously try to control the situation. The characters even pick quarrels with their spouses, and everyone gets defensive. The plot is simple and doesn’t try to be cleverer than it already is, which makes it a very enjoyable read. Because the plot is so simple, it allows for the focus to be mainly on how the characters interact and how they develop. This is definitely one of the plays that you will not be able to put down.
Now this is tricky, since the play was translated. I’ve personally never been a fan of translations because a lot of the originality gets lost. With that being said, Christopher Hampton, who was the one who translated the original play to English, did a fantastic job. The play was still coherent and the wording did not come across as odd, which translations sometimes do. The writing was fluent and made sense to the character, but it’s tough to review something while not being able to understand the original language. Also, translations usually do their best to get the ideas behind the text in a coherent way. This play definitely did that, but it’s writing definitely did not stand out.
The characters weren’t fancy, but they were simple. They were very common character archetypes, so it was easy to imagine them. However, none of them are the same. As a matter of fact, even though the characters are based off very common archetypes, they’re little differences create more tension in the scene. Alain is a lawyer who is constantly on the phone, Michel is worried about his mother, Anette has a problem of keeping things down (when you read the play you’ll get what I mean), and Veronique comes off as very high cultured. I don’t want to delve in too much into the characters, as I feel it may take away from your enjoyment of the play, but they’re common enough to be very relatable and really easy to imagine. I think this is what made the play really interesting, is that the characters were fairly common enough to be imagined, but at the same time you didn’t feel cheated out of character developments. You could believe those characters were real, and sympathize with their struggles in the scene.
The play takes place entirely in Veronique and Michel’s house, primarily in the living room. The set is really simple, and for any director, can be played around with. The good thing about a simple set is that it is very easy to imagine, and even easier to build on to. There is no scene changes, so the play really relies on the characters chemistry and the plot movement. I imagined my living room as the set for this play, which made it much easier for me to get lost in this play.
Before I write about the play, I just want to highlight what I mean by ‘Worldly Affect’. This is how the play changes or shapes cultural, social, political or economic discussion. Since plays have always had a lesson behind them, I find that all plays, even if they’re really entertaining and fun, should have something to say about the world.
Children not getting along is pretty bad. But since then, we’ve grown up and learned from our mistakes. We become role models for the younger generation to help them grow up. And that is exactly where this play fits in.
The play focuses on this huge issue of parents being worse than their children. Adults who act even worse than kids. And this play focuses on how outrageously funny and horrible that is. Working in retail, I’ve come to learn that certain adults (not all) can be a lot worse than a child when they don’t get what they want. Reading this play was a glimpse into that, but it was absolutely entertaining. Honestly, this is a really fun play to read (and I’m sure to watch as well), but really opens up your eyes on how some (not all) adults act when they don’t get their way.
In conclusion, Yasmina Reza’s ‘God of Carnage’ is an absolutely brilliant black comedy that uses it’s simplicity to deal with such a complex, yet very common issue. I would definitely suggest this as a read, and any theatre companies who need a four cast play with a good amount of dark humor but lots of dramatic tension, this is the one for you!
Now this blog is part of the associate program with Amazon, so if you are interested in purchasing the play please consider going through this link and purchasing! Thank you so much for reading!
Amazon Link: God of Carnage