Two kids fall-out because one won't let the other be in their gang. The gang-leader ends up with their two front teeth being knocked out for his pains. By rights, that should be the end of such rough and tumble. In Christopher Hampton's English language translation of French writer Yasmina Reza's play, however, it prompts a meeting of the two boys' parents to act as mediators of some kind of unspoken settlement. As with that other most painful of plays, Abigail's Party, the incident that kick-starts Reza's play happens off-stage, as an eruption of social savagery destroys any pretence at politesse. Only Erik Satie's quietest of revolutions playing on the stereo keeps calm.
Gareth Nicholls' production starts off well-behaved enough, as Annette and her lawyer husband Alain endure the niceties of the more seemingly liberal Veronique and Michel in their too-perfect white home. The soft play area is a dead giveaway of how boarders are repelled in Karen Tennent's design, as it acts as both moat and escape route while everyone collapses into fits of barely suppressed unhappiness. This is expressed with increasingly manic intent by the two couples, played over seventy minutes duration by Colin McCredie and Anita Vettesse as Michel and Veronique, with Richard Conlon and Lorraine McIntosh as Alain and Annette.
Reza's play may be almost a decade old, but in its up-close dissection of human frailty, it channels similar extremes to a more recent wave of dark dramas dressed up as sit-coms such as Fleabag and Catastrophe. This in itself points to how mainstream comic writing has grown up in its willingness to focus so unflinchingly on such discomforting behaviour. I blame the parents.
The Herald, March 13th 2017