Review: Le Dieu du Carnage (Théâtre Français)

J’ai beaucoup aimé Le Dieu du Carnage par Yasmina Reza à la Berkeley Theatre hier soir!  (Don’t worry, I’ll spare you my mangled junior-high French for the rest of this review.)

I feel kind of privileged to have seen Théâtre Français’s production of Le Dieu du Carnage in Reza’s original French.  I admire those who can translate well and have seen many wonderful adaptations of works in other languages, but I think it’s a unique experience to see a play in the author’s original voice.  This is a play full of wit and absurdity, and it was great to see how the language added to that.

Le Dieu du Carnage centres on two married couples who meet to discuss a playground fight that occurred between their 11-year-old sons.  The adults, all posh sophistication, poo-poo the children’s animalistic behaviour, but as the play goes on, the stresses of life cause the characters to devolve into animals themselves.  The “god of carnage” takes over, as it were (with the help of a little alcohol).

This play is really quite funny, while at the same time examining some of the absurdities of modern life.  Are we really enlightened, or are we animals?  Does having a degree in art history or the right vintage of Merlot really make us better people… or just ridiculous? There are a lot of one-liners and physical comedy that had me and my show partner laughing out loud, and the rest of the audience was equally receptive. Though oddly, the guy sitting next to me didn’t crack a smile, but I have to assume he was just having a bad day.

When I asked my friend Joanne to come to this show with me, her worried reaction was “But… I don’t speak French!”  For those concerned that a French play might go whizzing over their heads, the play does provide English surtitles for easy understanding.  It’s worth it anyway just to see the animated performances of the cast: Colombe Demers, Christian Laurin, Olivier L’Écuyer and Tara Nicodemo, who does a fine job of vomiting onstage.

It was also great to see a packed house on a Wednesday night, which just shows that there is a large and appreciative audience for French-language theatre in Toronto.  The only part of the evening that we didn’t enjoy was the show starting nearly 15 minutes late, but I can only hope that was an accident.  As soon as the show started, we were enjoying ourselves too much to think about it.

I do encourage people to check out the show before it closes this weekend.  Don’t be intimidated by the French – laughter is completely accessible in any language.



Le Dieu du Carnage is playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs (26 Berkeley Street) until November 5th.
– Performances are Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, Saturday at 3:30pm.
– English surtitles are provided for the November 4th and 5th performances.
– Ticket prices range from $28.00 to $48.00
– Tickets are available at the box office, by phone at 416-534-6604/1-800-819-4981 or online.

Photo: Colombe Demers, Christian Laurin and Tara Nicodemo. Photo by Marc Lemyre.