Theatre

In the teeth of the matter

The English translation of Yasmina Reza’s “The God of Carnage” from the French original is a hilarious saga on the surface but beneath the surface it exposes the hypocritical and phoney worldview of the upper middle class. As part of ongoing theatre offering by Aadyam, the acclaimed play was presented by QTP, Mumbai at Kamani auditorium in New Delhi last week. Directed by Nadir Khan, the production gradually acquires momentum, projecting comic situations reaching a climax that unmasks two couples meeting to resolve the issue caused by the physical fight between their sons. In the opening sequences the couples tend to be sophisticated, amiable and believing in moral values.

Remarkable for its uncomplicated structure and smooth flow of action, it is skilfully written with just four characters. The main means of expression are dialogues but the characters keep changing their position which gives the illusion of dramatic action taking place. The entire action takes place in the drawing room of Veronica and her husband Michael. Not much properties and elaborate set are required. The play was a great success in France as well as in London and New York. Interestingly, it was presented three years ago by a Delhi-based group DRAMATECH at a small auditorium in English with a touch of Hindi and Punjabi evoking laughter loud and long.

In the fight the son of Annette and Alan has broken two teeth of of Veronica and Michael’s son. It all begins with friendly exchange of views on the issue. The visitors are served coffee. In the course of conversations we know that Veronica is an art lover and an enlightened woman who is writing a book. Much of the space on the sofa and coffee table is occupied by costly reference books. They talk admiringly about one another. Gradually the conversation becomesviciously confrontational. Michael shouts at Alan that his son has lost two teeth in the fight between the young ones. In a retort, Alan says, “We will give him better ones.”

The continuity of discussion is frequently interrupted by Alan who keeps on talking on his mobile to his client representing pharmaceutical company in a high pitch. A lawyer by profession, his conversation on mobile irritates not only his wife but also Michael. Expressing his resentment, Michael shouts at him, saying, “He represents a terrible pharmaceutical company.” Despite strong protests, he keeps on talking on mobile. Just as some kind of patch-up begins to take place, Annette starts vomiting. The vomit spreads on the sofa, on carpet, on the floor and above all on the costly reference books kept on the table. Veronica becomes hysterical. Chaotic situation prevails. They have forgotten all about the dispute they are meeting to resolve. All the characters concentrate on cleaning the vomit, especially from the books. As soon as the dirtied spaces are cleaned and order is restored, Alan begins to talk on mobile with his client. An intensely agitated Annette snatches the mobile from her husband and throws it away. It falls in the flower vase. Michael takes it out from the water in the vase, tries to bring it back in working condition. Without his mobile, Alan feels like a fish out of water.

The play takes another comic turn when the men start drinking and unleash gender war. The women are not far behind their husbands and express their solidarity against them. At one point Veronica in her emotional outburst shouts at her husband and says that it’s a torture to live with someone who is negative in his approach about life and is a racist. She attacks her husband and starts beating him up.

A self-made man, Michael's mother is chronically ill and his mother is on phone apprising him of her treatment. As she frequently talks to her son on phone, the ringing tone of the phone is one more element of irritation for the characters who seem to have forgotten the real issue. One more emotional outburst — Annette throws all over the place flowers elegantly arranged in the vase by Veronica. These scenes revealing the ebb and flow of characters' emotions in constant conflict with one another are enacted with consummate artistry by the director and his cast. These offer comic and biting satirical moments to the audience. The director has used pauses to reveal the hypocritical world of the characters that are unable to communicate. This awkward situation evokes laughter.

The action which mainly takes place in the centre and down stage establishes immediacy with the audience. The set designed by IOD consultant is imaginative which captures the right ambience of an upper middle class house.

Shernaz Patel as Veronica, Sohrab Ardeshir as Michael, the husband of Veronica, Anu Menon as Annette and Zafar Karachiwala, the husband of Annette, portray their characters with remarkable artistry.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 12:30:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/nadir-khans-interpretation-of-yasmina-rezas-the-god-of-carnage/article7481899.ece

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