God of Carnage Melbourne Theatre Company Arts Centre 100 St Kilda Road Southbank

After the big-hitting August: Osage County, the Melbourne Theatre Company is bringing another award winning play to Melbourne, this time Tony Award winner Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage.

Misbehaving children seems to be the theme of the month for me, what with the Chris Tsiolkas talk at the Melbourne Writers Festival and this play. God of Carnage is essentially a comedy four-hander focused on two sets of parents who come together because one of their children has hurt the other. Their meeting starts off with a veneer of civility over coffee and clafoutis as they try to discuss the matter in a mature manner. However, the discussion quickly descends into a chaos of attacks, recriminations and defensiveness, which reveals a lot about the values and behaviours of the professional middle classes.

There’s Alain (Hugo Weaving), a self-important lawyer who is constantly attached to his mobile phone because he must enjoy the feeling of being indispensable.  His wife Annette, hilariously nicknamed Woof Woof  (Natasha Herbert) is well dressed in expensive clothes but does not seem to be doing anything constructive with her life. The other parents are Michel (Geoff Morell) who is the most sympathetic character of the bunch as he tries to maintain order and politeness despite his volatile and argumentative wife Veronique (Pamela Rabe) who is into obscure art and ‘issues’.

There were no set changes or all four characters were on stage for most of the time, so it was important to have a cracking script to keep interest and momentum with essentially four talking heads. Fortunately, the script was pointed and wickedly funny and the main reason it worked is because each character was immediately recognisable for the mostly middle-aged, middle class audience members. The four actors were able to create a maelstrom of energy on the static set, and you could tell that they really enjoyed the meatiness of the roles as they threw themselves wholeheartedly into slanging matches and childish tantrums.

God of Carnage gets four stars!