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Skewering the middle classes at the Gielgud

PUBLISHED: 16:59 02 April 2008 | UPDATED: 17:18 16 August 2010

God of Carnage at at Gielgud Theatre
Janet McTeer ( Veronique ) Ken Stott ( Michel ) Ralph Fiennes ( Alain ) Tamsin Greg ( Annette )
©Alastair Muir

God of Carnage at at Gielgud Theatre Janet McTeer ( Veronique ) Ken Stott ( Michel ) Ralph Fiennes ( Alain ) Tamsin Greg ( Annette ) ©Alastair Muir

©ALASTAIR MUIR CONTACT: alastair@alastairmuir.com

THE bourgeoisie was, evidently, invented by the French, but that doesn t stop our own self-satisfied middle classes from recognising and guffawing at the antics of the people in

THE bourgeoisie was, evidently, invented by the French, but that doesn't stop our own self-satisfied middle classes from recognising and guffawing at the antics of the people in Yasmina Reza's new play God Of Carnage at the Gielgud Theatre.

In reality it ought to be called Home Truths because that is what this tightly-written comedy is actually all about.

Alain Reille (Ralph Fiennes) and his spouse Annette (Tamsin Greig) are summoned to their neighbour's house after their son has attacked their boy with a stick and, of course, something has to be done.

The trouble is, no one can agree on who is going to do what, or even who is responsible for this fracas. The mother of the injured boy, Veronique (Janet McTeer), is a dyed-in-the-wool leftie/liberal who has written a book about the horrors of Darfur and believes that she has a part to play in reducing world tensions..

Her 'better half', Michel (Ken Stott) who has made his money in lavatory fittings, finds marriage in general a bore and in particular to Veronique a torture. She admits "I have no sense of humour - and I have no intention of acquiring one" so life with her, and Nibbles the hamster, is not to be envied.

Annette, on the other hand, has to put up with Alain (a corporate lawyer) being constantly on his mobile phone to the exclusion of any involvement with 'family' matters. She becomes so stressed that it causes her to vomit on the coffee table, where her hosts priceless but useless books are ensconced - panic.

Both Ms Reza and her translator, Chistopher Hampton, have plenty of expertise creating beautiful havoc among the monied classes in Art, her last play, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, his film about 18th century wife-swapping, so this is a stroll in the park to these two. And they certainly make the most of a rather thin plot.

Michel stands accused of rodenticide after admitting releasing the defenceless, but annoying hamster into the mean streets of Paris. Did he die of starvation, or was he eaten by a fox?

The acting is uniformly excellent, with much to enjoy in these torturous relationships, but then Michel produces a bottle of rum and things start to disintegrate. They all get drunk and start to insult each other and throw things about, Tamsin Greig looking like a secretary bird, picking her way about the room scattering flowers, Ken Stott triumphantly admitting " I'm fundamentally uncouth" and so on.

Director Mathew Warchus has made the best of this rather tired offering, and after a slow start he builds the confrontations and the laughs to a suitable climax, but unless you have a penchant for watching people eviscerate their lives in public you may find the whole thing a rather pointless exercise.

* 'God of Carnage' is at the Gielgud Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue until June 14. Box Office: 0870 040 0046.

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