From Maturity to Mischief

God of Carnage
Dylan Van Den Berg & Gill Lugton (Directors)

Abounding in brilliant insanity, NUTS’ latest comic venture, God of Carnage, is the most chaotic piece of theatre to have hit the ANU Drama Lab in years, and, simultaneously, one of the most successful.

The play itself, by Yasmina Reza, plays upon a simple premise: what happens when all hell breaks loose amongst a group of seemingly mature adults?  This time, two pairs of adults (parents) have come to discuss a fight which has occurred between their children.  By the end of the evening, however, they are the ones acting as children themselves, crying, mocking, wrecking destruction across the stage.

In some ways, it is this element of the play – the discrepancy between adult appearance and childlike behaviour – which perhaps loses favour in a student production.  We are at an age where immaturity, whilst frowned upon, is still very much expected, as any Thursday night in Civic might reveal; seeing twenty-something year olds break down is not as shocking as would seeing middle-aged people do the same.  With that said, I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not entirely the case with NUTS’ production, as the four leads all established themselves with a credible air of middle-age in the play’s early moments, the verisimilitude onstage being broken only when it needed to be.

More broadly speaking, the play’s performances in and of themselves were nothing short of spectacular.  With only four actors on stage, the stage nevertheless felt bursting at the seams, the idiosyncrasies of the leads all bouncing off one other with power and energy. Emily Clark’s Annette in particular captured the spotlight with the first onstage vomit I have ever encountered, a most disturbingly hilarious moment from the front row in particular.  Kudos to the directors for that as well – I could see the little textures of the vomit in detail.  Yummy.

Of course, there are other similarly powerful moments throughout the play, not the least in the vividness of the characters’ transformations.  Hannah Wood’s Veronica evolves from pleasantly neurotic into outright insane; her partner, an initially mild-mannered Michael played by Sean Flynn, begins to show his boisterous colours, him most of all showing the signs of childishness of the fight which has brought the cast here in the first place.  Clark’s spotlight also extends far beyond her one crowning moment of chunder: she of all characters perhaps exhibits the most explicit change, as the diplomacy and mild manner of her “wealth manager” persona changes under the magic of alcohol.

Somewhat fittingly, it is actually the partner of Annette, Alan, who requires the least unravelling.  Under Patrick Hutchinson’s command, the character is gleeful, a sociopath, seemingly the least concerned with the entire state of affairs, immersed instead in his mobile phone and the occurrences of the legal world.  And yet, it is this jester-like figure who perhaps commands the most thematic significance of all, as he reveals his own ideological inclinations in a speech which is simultaneously the title drop; he seems the God of Carnage incarnate, provoking the play’s tension all the further as he goes to his phone one more time, Hutchinson’s trickster-like smile suggesting just the subtlest desire for even more chaos.

This is, again, a most wonderful piece of student theatre – an hour and a half of pure theatrical carnage in the intimacy of the Drama Lab.  The energy is constant and by the end of the play, one feels as though the black comedy could continue on forever in sweet, uncontrollable ecstasy.  Here is student theatre for the ages; here is a production that will linger in our memories, in all of its devilish excellence.

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