MARK COOK shOw Of the weeK

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - THEATRE -

Mid­dle-class snob­bery, pre­ten­sion and hubris have been the stuff of com­edy for cen­turies. No one has done it quite so ex­plo­sively and hi­lar­i­ously as the award-win­ning French writer Yas­mina Reza in this neat ex­posé of ‘lib­eral’ val­ues. The four-han­der, pre­miered here in 2008, was also turned into a 2011 film, Car­nage, with Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet.

It all starts triv­ially, and cor­dially, enough, es­ca­lat­ing after a scrap be­tween two 11-year-old tykes as their sup­pos­edly civilised par­ents meet to air their dif­fer­ences and come to a tol­er­ant, mu­tu­ally agreed way for­ward. The chic liv­ing room

Theatre Royal, Bath Un­til Sat, 1hr 20mins

of the host cou­ple is dom­i­nated in Peter McKin­tosh’s de­sign by a ceil­ing or­na­ment com­pris­ing a gi­ant tan­gle of lethal-look­ing African spears – a sym­bol of the re­la­tion­ships here and a sign of the bat­tle­ground to come as the ne­go­ti­a­tions turn toxic. Veron­ica, it emerges, is a slightly smug lib­eral in­tel­lec­tual who is writ­ing a book about Dar­fur; hus­band Michael – given a hint of dan­ger by Nigel Lind­say – sells pots and pans. Uh-oh: in­com­pat­i­bil­ity alert.

The other pair are no bet­ter: as wealth man­ager An­nette, (Amanda Ab­bing­ton, of Sher­lock fame) is coiled like a spring with ten­sion, her body lan­guage scream­ing ir­ri­ta­tion – this even be­fore she vom­its co­pi­ously over the pale fur­nish­ings and valu­able books. No won­der she’s scrappy. Alan, her ghastly lawyer hus­band self-im­por­tantly tak­ing end­less mo­bile phone calls, is a com­plete and ut­ter jerk (shame Ralf Lit­tle’s per­for­mance isn’t more nu­anced).

So it’s no sur­prise that the quar­tet de­scend into child-

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