When two couples meet to discuss a physical fight between their sons, things take a turn for the worse. Through this internationally renowned play God of Carnage, the French playwright Yasmina Reza investigates the complexity of human behaviour.
The complex issues in God of Carnage
When two couples meet to discuss a physical fight between their sons, things take a turn for the worse. In God of Carnage, the French playwright Yasmina Reza investigates the complexity of human behaviour.
Dark comedy, no manners
Directed by the UAE-based Nina Hein and presented by the Dubai Drama Group, God of Carnage will be performed on Friday and Saturday and again on April 25, 26 and 27 at thejamjar in Al Quoz. Described as a dark “comedy of manners, without the manners”, it was first performed in 2006 in Zurich and picked up numerous Tony Awards and a Laurence Olivier award for Best Comedy.
Other stage productions have featured celebrities including Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and James Gandolfini. A movie version released in 2011, called Carnage, was directed by Roman Polanski and starred Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster.
The UAE-based actors Russell Bell, Brook Butterworth, Mike Green and Sophie Pâris bring the Dubai production to life. For Butterworth, playing the character of Annette, whose son hit the other child, the story poses such important questions in a brutally honest way. “It is a very interesting play thematically,” she says. “It’s a tough script and the roles are very demanding so it is very fascinating having to deal with such different characters. It’s a real investigation of human behaviour.”
Every story has two sides and it is important to try to understand situations from other people’s perceptions, she adds, because the characters on stage could be regular people from “down the street”.
“Yasmin’s writing is incredible. She has a very poignant way of looking at human nature and she plays with speech patterns in a very natural way,” says Butterworth.
The art of coexistence
The production poses the question: is there such a thing as the art of coexistence? This philosophy is tested when two sets of parents meet to get to the bottom of a scuffle between their young sons. They touch on subjects ranging from art and Africa to the death of a pet. At the start, all things seem to be in place until the situation escalates, items are destroyed and a marriage is put in jeopardy. According to Hein, these characters represent “everyday people”.
“When the couples meet for a civilised conversation, the facade begins to fall apart,” she says. “It explores the universal topic of how we can live together and remain civilised. Yasmin uses an interesting mix of subtlety and being direct. It’s a little different to the movie; we stick to the original play.”
How to be civilised
Various other themes dissected within the story include marriage, parenthood and social behaviour. Reza also asks: are individuals born with civilised traits or do they learn them?
“It looks at human relationships and interactions,” says Hein. “Such as how much influence parents’ behaviour has on their child and how they can be role models. If your child is in a similar situation, do you try to let them solve the problem, or how involved will you be? It’s a challenging play, high energy with a nice flow.”
God of Carnage also studies how marriages can be fragile and how moments of intensity can either make the union stronger or cause it to crumble.
“If there is no peace at home, how will there be peace in society?” asks Hein.
• God of Carnage will be performed on Friday and Saturday, and again from April 25 to 27, at thejamjar, Al Quoz. Entry is by donation. For more details, visit www.dubaidramagroup.com
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