Tuesday, September 22, 2009

god of carnage

For Christmas this year we had the unexpectedly generous gift of a subscription to the Melbourne Theatre Company. They have a lower-priced version for the under 30 market, which we luckily are part of for an entire year more after this one. We’ve been to eight plays so far this year, which are convincing trying their best to tempt us into forking out the extortionist rates they make you pay once you hit your fourth decade. (I thought that, like car insurance, things got cheaper as you got older, not triple in price. No fair.)

In a French park, two boys have an argument. The result: one of them gets thwacked in the face with a stick and loses two of his teeth. The boys’ parents hold a meeting to discuss how to deal with the situation, imagining themselves as rational people who can deal with the silliness of children and work out a solution. They can’t, of course, because they’re human and humans as a species aren’t well known for their ability to fix problems with words. The whole event becomes a battleground between the couples and those within each relationship, and by the end even the painstakingly organised lounge room the conversation is held in bears the brunt of the event.

Hugo Weaving and his eyebrows starred as Alain, a lawyer whose most important announcements are usually interrupted by the ring of his mobile phone. As with other plays that star People What Are Famous For Being In Movies, the entire theatre went a bit silly every time he made a joke. I couldn’t really fault the cast—especially Alain’s wife Annette, played by Natasha Herbert, whose scene of inelegant illness was utterly convincing and wholly amusing in an immature kind of way. Pamela Rabe and Geoff Morrell round out the cast as Veronique, the injured child’s slightly batshit mother, and her more realistic husband Michel.

This play, translated from Yasmina Reza’s original, has the benefit of both being short—an hour and a half, no intermission—and the funniest play I’ve seen all year. Physical comedy and witticisms abound and I found myself quoting things like “pears!” in a posh (and awful) accent on the car trip home. It handled serious issues with occasionally too light a touch, and despite my enjoyment I could never entirely believe that the more flamboyant reactions the characters were having were realistic. However, until I am also an overprotective and French parent I can’t say for sure I wouldn’t also have a knock-down drag-out fight with my partner while guests were over. Perhaps it’s in the parenting manuals.

As with any art form that discusses classism, even only slightly, I heartily approve of this and advise you to go see it. Psst, there’s eight-dollar parking just down the other end of the road from the Arts Centre, in a warehouse. And grab some hot chips from Lord of the Fries, too, and eat them by the river. Otherwise, don’t bother going. Seriously.

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