God of Carnage at the Belfry Theatre – Review

I remember thinking as I prepared to attend opening night of the Tony award-winning God of Carnage at the Belfry Theatre, how much this arts institution means to me.  I love: the warm, intimate nature of the space itself; the kind, talented, creative, hard-working individuals who collaborate there; the challenging, thought-provoking, excellent work they produce.

God of Carnage is fun, ferocious theatre. Written by one of France’s most well known and successful contemporary playwrights, Yasmina Reza, and splendidly translated by Christopher Hampton, it has been described as “A comedy of manners, without the manners”.

Carnage_0011Photo: David Cooper. Bill Dow, Sarah Orenstein, Vincent Gale, and Celine Stubel. Courtesy Belfry Theatre


Four parents meet at the apartment of one of the couples after one of their eleven-year-old sons attacks the other on the playground.

Soundscapes (Brian Linds) and lighting (Guy Simard) amplify the textures of the sophisticatedNew Yorkupper-class apartment interior – clean, cool, and very expensive- designed by John Ferguson. Centre-stage is reserved for an imposing totem-like aboriginal sculpture.  Is this the “God of Carnage” of the title?

The discussion is civilized for 3 lines, and then the veneer of culture begins to bubble, and peel, as the parents’ careful exterior surfaces crack to expose long standing prejudices, contemptible attitudes, and frailties.

What an actor’s dream –characters with an under-belly waiting to be exposed.  This perfect ensemble cast (Bill Dow Michael, Vincent Gale Alan, Sarah Orenstein Veronica, Celine Stubel Annette), beautifully directed by Glynis Leyshon, dive in with abandon.  I did not expect full-contact theatre, or an element of slap-stick, but this production delivers it and comedy as well.  I have not laughed so hard in a long time.

Carnage_0185Photo: David Cooper, courtesy Belfry Theatre.

There are a multitude of four letter words, and some surprising physical action. Come with an open mind, and a willingness to be shocked. It’s the shock that leads to laughter – nervous laughter and deep-seated belly laughs.

Glynis Leyshon works deft magic with the actors; they let loose, and rein in, combining strengths in attacking one another – sometimes couple against couple, male against female, or even ganging up on one individual.

Vincent Gale as Alan, the lawyer, annoys magnificently with his endless phone conversations that interrupt the matter at hand, without tipping into caricature.  Bill Dow, (Michael), has one of the best lines of the night “I’m a f**king Neaderthal”, setting the tone for the last half of the show, as interactions increasingly degenerate.

It’s hard to empathize with these characters; after all, would we act in this manner?  The secret to the attraction of God of Carnage is – perhaps. Just how far would we go?  Would we be perfectly willing to abandon the conventions of social interaction to “let it all hang out?”

God of Carnage works on many levels – it’s by turns: hilarious, a scathing indictment, crude and crass and politically incorrect, and carries a deeper message.  Whether you want to contemplate contemporary morality, or simply have a good laugh at someone else’s expense, you’ll be more richly satisfied with this exquisite production.

My first impressions at the end of the show:

What a night! I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

God of Carnage at Belfry Theatre is fun, ferocious theatre. Perfect ensemble cast. Beautiful direction. Sophisticated set, lighting and sound.

Be prepared to be un-prepared….. I can’t spoil the surprise…… but – there is one!



Creative Team

Playwright: Yasmina Reza

Translator: Christopher Hampton

Starring: Bill Dow, Vincent Gale, Sarah Orenstein and Celine Stubel

Director: Glynis Leyshon

Designer: John Ferguson

Lighting Designer: Guy Simard

Sound Designer: Brian Linds

Stage Manager: Jennifer Swan


$23 to $38 (plus HST).

50% off for High School Students; 25% off for University & College Students (excluding Friday and Saturday nights.)

250-385-6815   or online at https://tickets.belfry.bc.ca. 

Performance Schedule (April 17 –May 20, 2012)

Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8 pm
Wednesday Matinees at 1 pm (April 25 + May 2)
Thursday Student Matinee at 1 pm (May 10)
Saturday Matinees at 4 pm
Sunday Matinees at2 pm


 Disclaimer:  I was offered complimentary tickets to attend the premiere of this play. I was not paid to write a review nor was I required to do so. As always, I retain editorial control over all the content published on this blog

About @lacouvee

Community Builder. Catalyst. Speaker. Writer. Arts Advocate.

Passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive change.

I truly believe that one person can make a difference and that we all have our own lives to live, creatively, while respecting the unique nature of others.


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