Yasmina Reza’s acerbic comedy of ill manners God of Carnage, translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, was a highlight of the Theatre Royal Bath 2018 summer season.
It returns for a short run before touring until mid-February, with director Lindsay Posner once more in razor-sharp charge, and Elizabeth McGovern reprising her role as one of the protagonists in the increasingly bitter breakdown of middle-class courtesies.
Alongside the excellent Nigel Lindsay – uncouth, self-made businessman Michael – McGovern plays insufferable, bleeding-heart author Veronica, mother of youngster Henry, who has lost two teeth in a run-of-the-mill playground scuffle with school mate Freddie.
Both sets of seemingly enlightened parents (Samantha Spiro and Simon Paisley Day join the cast as Freddie’s mother and father) meet over drinks with the aim of finding a peaceful solution. But as the alcohol begins to flow, civility falls victim to recriminations and outrageous behaviour way beyond that of their offspring, with the pent-up fury cleverly reflected in a series of shifting alliances.
Reza, best known for her international comedy hit Art, is reflecting on the minefield of 21st century marriage, with Paisley Day’s slippery corporate lawyer Alan possibly the most unpleasant of all four parents. He seems permanently soldered to his mobile phone, and his fragile wife Annette’s eventual revenge proves resonant.
The play’s impact is particularly effective in focusing on each of the parents in turn, with their ghastly behaviour intentionally at odds with Peter McKintosh’s chic drawing room set.