Dramatech’s new production of “God of Carnage”, staged at New Delhi’s Alliance Francaise recently, is a satirical exposure of parents whose behaviour becomes ridiculous when they try to mediate between their children who indulge in a physical fight. It also exposes the middle class hypocrisy and its shallow social outlook. It entertains, shocks and provokes.
Written by Yasmina Reza in French, the play was widely acclaimed when staged in the original language. Subsequently it was presented in English translation in London and New York with great success. Its film version as “Carnage” was directed by Roman Polanski. The highlight of Dramatech's production is that the English version includes the occasional use of Hindi and Punjabi, which imparts it the distinct Indian upper middle class colour. The smattering of Hindi and Punjabi dialogue is effectively used as punch to reinforce the inherent satirical element. The translation as well direction is by Nayana Sagar.
The entire action takes place in the drawing room of the parents whose son is beaten up. The parents of the aggressor visit the aggrieved parents with the intension of pacifying them and suggesting the ways to bring about reconciliation.
The play has no beginning, no middle and no climax in the conventional sense. Generally, plays with such structure cannot hold the attention for long. But “God of Carnage” appears to be an exception. It is the idiosyncrasies of the characters and the absurdities of the situations they create because of their ridiculous behaviour that hold our attention. The dialogue is the main expressive source which reveals the class bias of the characters. The two boys, who are supposed to be fulcrum of drama, remain off stage.
In the drawing room we have four characters: Michel his wife Veronique, Alain and his wife Annette. The mobile and landline phone play a significant role to expose the social and economic backgrounds of the characters. Michel and Veronique are the aggrieved parents who allege that their son is grievously hurt by the son of Alain and Annette. Alain appears to be a prosperous lawyer and most of the time he talks on the mobile with his client who appears to be in trouble because of the reaction of the anti-hypertension medicine manufactured by his pharmaceutical company. Far from suggesting corrective measures, he advises him to defend his medicine in an aggressive manner. His voice betrays arrogance and pomposity. Michel also frequently talks on the phone to his mother who has gone to hospital for kneecap replacement. Again and again, he warns his mother not to undergo operation as he fears that substandard materials are being manufactured by unscrupulous companies. His tone displays his sincere concern for the health of his mother and worry about the unscrupulous manufacturers in the field of medicine and surgical equipments.
These telephone conversations irritate the female characters. Alain’s wife gets wild at her husband. She grabs his mobile phone and throws it into a flower vase containing water. The confrontation creates a chaotic scene, evoking laughter. Michel is a successful self-made businessman who appears to be realistic and down-to-earth in his approach to life. His wife Veronique claims to be a writer endowed with aesthetic sensibility.
The parents start to discuss the issue to arrive at an amicable solution, stressing the need to follow the art of co-existence. But gradually they deviate from the core issue because of their brazen one-upmanship. They shout at each other, gesticulating aggressively. At one stage the discussion shifts to misogyny, with both women forging an alliance to debunk men. One woman says “men are dead weight” and “clumsy”. Another woman says marriage leads to destruction. But this gender alliance does not last long. The women become combatants. Suddenly Annette starts vomiting, sending Veronique into hysterics, bemoaning the stink and damage to her rare books and beautiful carpet.
There is another scene where an angry Veronique starts beating her husband who meekly surrenders. His pitiable condition evokes laughter.
Nayana’s production is neat and effectively brings to the fore the comic and satirical elements. It is aptly cast. Sonu Sonkar as Michel, Madhu K. Rajesh as Veronique, whose antics are a vital source of comedy, Rupam Ganguly as the lawyer and Kavita Seth as Annette give convincing performances.