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God of Carnage opens at the Bear Pit Theatre

God of Carnage director Colin Edwards in rehearsals with actresses Penny Sandle-Keynes, left, and Ruth Linnett.
God of Carnage director Colin Edwards in rehearsals with actresses Penny Sandle-Keynes, left, and Ruth Linnett.

AS God of Carnage, the comedy of manners written by French playwright Yasmina Reza in 2006, opens at the Bear Pit Theatre tonight (Friday, 8th May), Gill Sutherland chats to director Colin Lewis Edwards.

Colin has had an extensive career as a professional stage and television actor and as a teacher of drama both here and in the USA. He has retired but still directs — including last year’s hilarious Blithe Spirit at the Bear Pit — and helps out at the community shop in Ilmington, where he lives with his partner, the journalist and broadcaster Wendy Nelson.

Tell us what happens in God of Carnage.

I’ve set it in Solihull and it tells the story of two vaguely upper middle class couples. Their 11-year-old sons get into a fight — one breaks the teeth of the other one — and the parents meet to resolve the matter in an amicable way. But it degenerates into carnage.

What attracted you to the play?

I saw the Polanski film, Carnage [the 2011 adaptation with Jodie Foster, John C Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet], and I thought ‘oh this is interesting’, but it was dark and intense, and I didn’t think it was the kind of play I would want to direct or be good at directing, but when I read it I realised there were lots of comic moments.

How have rehearsals gone?

As soon as we started rehearsing, I immediately thought ‘this is going to be fun!’. I’m so lucky to be working with four accomplished actors from the Bear Pit, we’ve been really able to dig deep into the subtext and really understand what is going on in the play. As Reza herself says: ‘My plays are about people who are well brought up but lose control of themselves.’ And in the play that is really interesting: nobody takes responsibility for what they say. Fuelled by alcohol, they just say what they are thinking without regard for the consequences. It reminds me of Chekhov; at one stage this woman says ‘I don’t have a sense of humour and I don’t ever intend to get one.’ Which is brilliant.

What do you think the audience will get from seeing it?

As one critic observed, when you are watching this play you will be laughing, but you will be laughing at yourselves. It’s very revealing; it is just so interesting to see what happens when you get rid of that veneer of respectability and people start to confront the realities of their relationships.

The play exposes the very worst in parents. Can you relate to that?

I don’t have children unfortunately; teaching has always been my big love. My last job was for Central Television, training young people for appearances on TV. That was incredibly rewarding, just seeing the way their confidence was built and developed through the process of drama. But I did meet a lot of ‘pushy mums’! When we held auditions we used to have a whole host of ‘keen’ mothers; they would be brushing the children’s hair, putting make up on them, warming them up... It created an artificiality, the opposite of what I was looking for.

Going back to the play, the parents become worse behaved than the children: the boys have a bit of a scrap, but these people insult each other in a way much more vicious, they use words like weapons. It’s a very clever play.

WHERE AND WHEN: God of Carnage is on at the Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford, from 6th to 14th May. Call the box office on 01789 403416.

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