God of Carnage for Company of Ten at Abbey Theatre

God of Carnage

God of Carnage - Credit: Archant

SOMETIMES a local production comes along which really does live on long in the memory after the performers have taken their final bow.

Just such was God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, performed last week in the Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans, by Stagespell Theatre Company.

Of course that has a lot to do with Reza’s brilliant writing and perception of the situation her protagonists find themselves in. But it is also to do with the four riveting performances and excellent direction by Liisa Smith which made it an unforgettable production.

God of Carnage takes an essentially simple starting point – two couples coming together to discuss the attack by one of their children on the son of another.

But as the visit goes on, the strained relationship between the two couples deteriorates and far greater issues than a fight between two children come to the fore.

Where the production was particularly good was in its recognition of the awkwardness of four people in such a situation; the grappling to find topics to discuss while skirting around the matter in hand and the silences while each of the protagonists rack their brains to think what to say next.

It doesn’t sound like a prime candidate for good drama but in the hands of Liisa and her four actors it was totally absorbing.

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And as the relationship between the foursome falls completely apart, the acting skills of the quartet really came to the fore with darkly comic results.

All four performers are well-known on the local stage – Lisa White as Veronique, John Stenhouse as Michel, Jo Emery as Annette and Andrew Baird as Alain – and it would be fair to say that they get completely under the skins of their characters as battle ensues.

Andrew captures the priorities of a lawyer, a slave to his mobile phone, excellently and it is no surprise when Jo’s Annette, with the help of a few rums, tells him a few home truths.

Lisa as the buttoned-up Veronique demonstrates how a civilised facade can fall apart while John as Michel gets the funniest lines and makes the most of them.

It would be nice to think that Stagespell might revive God of Carnage some time in the future – it was easily one of the best local productions for some time and deserves a re-run.