Festen (play)

Festen (play)

"Festen" is a British stage adaptation of the Danish film of the same name (which was releasedambiguous in North America as "The Celebration"). The adaptation is by English playwright David Eldridge. It was first staged by producer Marla Rubin at the Almeida theatre in London, and has since been staged in many countries around the world.


As in the original movie, "Festen" satirises the hypocrisy of a large and wealthy family by observing the events that unfold at the ancestral home during a reunion held to celebrate the oldest family member's 60th birthday.

As the time arises for birthday speeches to be made to the party's subject, one of his sons stands and asks the assembled guests to choose which of two prepared speeches he should read. The guests select one not knowing its contents, and the son declares it the "truth speech". As he begins to talk, it becomes dramatically clear that he is not praising his father but accusing him of having abused him and his sister over a period of years during their childhood. The rest of the story traces the family's turbulent battle with the truth to discover whether the son's cold rage is justified or the product of a deranged imagination.

London productions

"Festen" premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London and ran until the 1st May 2004 before transferring to the Lyric Theatre. It was directed by Rufus Norris, designed by Ian McNeil and co-produced in the West End by Marla Rubin and Bill Kenwright. The production then went on a four-month tour throughout the UK. "Festen" has gone on to be produced around the world in countries including Australia, Greece, Ireland, Mexico & South Africa.

In a review of the Almeida production "The Stage" noted that in the conversion from a film to a stage version, the story had "lost little of its power to shock and enthral in its transfer to the West End." [cite web| url= http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/4359/festen|title= Festen|publisher=The Stage |accessdate=2007-10-24 ] A "BBC London" reviewer described the play as "one of the most powerful, poignant and overwhelming evenings I've ever spent in the theatre." [cite web| url= http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/entertainment/theatre/festen_290304.shtml|title= Festen (Almeida)|publisher=bbc.co.uk |accessdate=2007-10-24 ]

The West End production ran from the 15th September 2004 until the 9th April 2005.

New York production

The U.S. production ran at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway from 23 March 2006 until 9 April 2006.

The production retained director Norris, designer McNeil and co-producers Kenwright and Rubin [cite web| url= http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=402871|title= Festen|publisher=The League of American Theatres and Producers |accessdate=2007-10-24 ] , but was recast with American actors. It opened to mixed reviews, and a lack of sales success has meant that it remains the only U.S. production of the play.

A "New York Times" reviewer stated that the "indifferently acted" staging on Broadway caused problems for the credibility of the work as a whole. He continued: "the painful uneasiness of the cast members here seems to emanate less from their characters' awareness that something's rotten in this home in Denmark than from the sense of performers adrift in uncharted seas." [cite web| url= http://theater2.nytimes.com/2006/04/10/theater/reviews/10fest.html|title= Haunting Memories of Daddy Dearest in 'Festen'|publisher=The New York Times Company |accessdate=2007-10-24 ]

The "Variety" reviewer suggested that the production was better suited to the English national character than the American one:

In its successful London run, the chilly composure and rigid politesse of the characters in David Eldridge's "Festen" were like a second skin to the cast, and Rufus Norris' deceptively stark staging shaped the drama into a striking marriage of darkest emotional turmoil and perversely juicy intrigue. But American actors tend too often to want to be liked. That's just a part of the problem with Norris' curiously ineffectual Broadway reworking of the production. [cite web| url= http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117930184.html?categoryid=33&cs=1&query=festen|title= Festen|publisher=Reed Business Information |accessdate=2007-10-24 ]


The London production was nominated for five Olivier awards in 2005. It also won both the Evening Standard and Critics Circle Best Director Awards and the Evening Standard Best Designer award, in addition to the Whatsonstage Theatregoer's Choice Award for Best New Play.


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