Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

RMTC's attempts to create realistic stage vomit resulted in an embarrassment of retches

  • Print

Theatre officials across North America get a queasy feeling in their stomachs when contemplating how to stage God of Carnage, Yasmina Reza's raucous comedy of manners without the manners.

It happens when they get to the scene where Annette, who has literally been made sick by her husband's behaviour, throws up all over her hosts' rare art books, their carpet and her spouse.

But it's not any old cookie-toss. In her script, Reza specifies "a brutal and catastrophic spray of vomit."

It a crucial scene where the bile between two couples who fight over an altercation between their sons begins literally to spill out. Reza doesn't tell theatres how to accomplish a special effect like projectile vomiting. Since producers on Broadway kept secret how they did it, regional theatres all over the continent have been trading tips over the past two years on the art of the barf.

"This is a strange business we work in," says Miles Potter, director of the current Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre production of God of Carnage. "Here we have all this high-end talent and experience and I'm saying, 'Fill the vomit thing again for another puking run. Will someone clean up the vomit?'"

The search for an upchuck machine began with the Seattle Repertory Theatre, which hosted the first Carnage production after its Broadway run closed in 2010. The company conducted extensive testing in search of a "surreal spray" and came up with a system powered by compressed air that sends a concoction of powdered split pea soup through a hose that runs up the back of the actress playing Annette and down to her wrist.

RMTC spent months early this year in trial and error -- trying to gauge the velocity so the spurting fountain, which occasionally hit the front row, has the right spray, as well as fine-tuning the colour and consistency of the phoney puke. Staff fashioned their own version, dubbed the Vominator 3000. It was a complex mechanism like the Broadway version, which had conked out once. Potter feared a vomit malfunction.

RMTC opted to go low-tech, using a hot water bottle fixed with a valve hidden inside a sofa cushion. Annette would pick up the cushion while seated on the sofa and basically give it the Heimlich maneuver to power a body-racking wave of puke. It was nicknamed the vomillow.

"We wanted the actress to have complete control," says Laura Lindeblom, RMTC's assistant production manager. "They found the pillow the best way to do it. She picks up the pillow and grabs her stomach, but she is really reaching in and opening the valve."

Potter cast a retching rookie in Vickie Papavs, who accepted the part knowing she had a weak gag reflex that might mean she didn't need to simulate spilling her guts. The smell made her particularly nauseated, but after two weeks she could execute a graphic and realistic hurl.

"I'm very proud of my vomiting," says Papavs this week. "I get a good spray. I get good velocity. And I get a good sound."

She was so convincing, a RMTC patron recently ran out of the theatre to tell staff that one of the actors was sick and throwing up onstage, and then complained that she shouldn't have been made to work when she was so ill.

Not all of the performances were so easy to stomach.

"There was one show in which the hot water bottle tipped back and all of the vomit went down the front of my dress and ran into my shoe and my foot was swimming in vomit," Papavs says. "To get the extra laugh, I poured it out of my shoe. That's my lasting memory of God of Carnage."

Perfecting the stage vomit was a rare bonding experience for the various RMTC departments.

"It was really fun," says Lindeblom, in her fourth season with the organization. "The brilliant thing was that no one person was able to take this project from beginning to end. There was a lot of cross-departmental work. Barf brought us all together."

video player to use on WFP

video player to use on WFP

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2012 G3


Updated on Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 7:32 AM CDT: adds video

8:02 AM: adds additional video

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Total Body Tune-Up:- Shoulder Press

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google