Couples on verge of insanity
St James Cavalier
Young children have always looked up to their parents as infallible, awe-inspiring supreme beings whose knowledge and judgement are set in stone.
But this enviable state soon fades as children grow older and realise that mum and dad are pretty flawed.
Most teenagers feel their parents are unpleasant but necessary agents of their existence and consequently deal with them similarly to the way they treat undesirable peers – with contempt and exclusion.
The Alliance Française de Malte-Mediterranée presented Yasmina Reza’s terrific 2008 dark comedy, God of Carnage, at St James Cavalier last week.
Translated into Maltese by Anthony Aquilina and adapted by Lino Farrugia to suit the current Maltese situation, L-Alla Tal-Qirda explores the breakdown in communication and the resultant chaotic sitting room drama that unfolds when two sets of seemingly rational and well-intentioned adults push each other’s buttons to the point where all semblance of civility and maturity disappears.
Jes Camilleri and Charlotte Grech play Alan and his wife Ninette, whose 11-year-old son Ferdinand has hit another boy, Bruno, in the face with a stick, breaking the boy’s front teeth and bruising his nose.
Bruno’s parents, Veronica and Michael, portrayed by Shirley Blake and Kris Spiteri, invite Alan and Ninette over to their house to discuss the matter in what appears to be a civilised manner… until competitiveness, personal gripes and social prejudices cause the situation to degenerate. The initial veneer of cordiality gives way to the true colours of the self-absorbed adults, whose behaviour is exposed as being similar to that of their offspring.
The strength of the play lies in the sharp dialogue and subtle antagonism which gives way to caustic verbal sparring and is not easy to achieve in translation – which is a credit to this Maltese adaptation because it kept the freshness and pace of the original impeccably.
The director made excellent casting choices and staged the piece in such a manner as to keep it tight and slick.
Camilleri’s portrayal of Alan as a rather supercilious, ruthless, alpha-lawyer, whose most significant relationship is with his mobile phone, was great to watch because it focused on the subtleties of expression and his ability to irritate with a look or a gesture, which complemented Grech’s passive-aggressive attitude as his aggrieved wife.
Grech’s take on the stuck-up, prim female stereotype was spot on. She counterbalances Blake’s much more temperamental and effusive Veronica – a well-read self-styled socially conscious, bo-ho with literary aspirations whose contempt for her husband Michael is revealed as she launches herself into a barrage of verbal abuse. This leaves the poor man fighting for power in a marriage that is not as perfect as he had assumed it was.
Meanwhile, Michael’s mother makes several telephonic appearances which do nothing for his image and reinstate him as the underdog.
The two couples are pitted against each other in one instance, with the women ganging up against the men in another.
Spiteri’s Michael is very good and credible too – he manages to capture the frustrations of a self-made man who still feels the social veil fluttering in his direction, while Blake parodied the meddlesome helicopter parent perfectly.
L-Alla Tal-Qirda is not an easy play to stage by any means and the fact that it is so well executed is a credit to both cast and director for having worked so seamlessly together.
A truly enjoyable performance and one of the season’s must-sees.
• L-Alla Tal-Qirda runs this weekend at St James Cavalier.