Can a university players’ production do justice to an adaptation of a seminal film classic? The film is Dogme 95 by the great David Eldridge, which has become the stage play Festen, brought to the Fringe by Centre Stage Theatre Company of the University of Aberdeen.
Festen looks at the events of one night in the lives of the Hansen family, as the patriarch Helge (Adam Cook) celebrates his 60th birthday with a dinner party to which all the family, including the estranged ones, are invited. What follows is an exploration of a family hiding secrets that, once revealed, have explosive consequences.
The nature of the play - which includes the revelation of deep seated child abuse on a horrifying scale - can make uncomfortable viewing, but the quality of the performances by the actors directly involved in the storyline make for humbling viewing. In particular, Nick Marshall as Christian conveys a deep sense of innocence forever lost. The cast work well as an ensemble; special credit must go to Will Holliday in the role of Grandad for bringing some much needed comic relief.
The production is dragged down by the overlong scene changes as the audience sit in the dark while the cast make as much noise as possible shifting the set around, which almost ruins the sense of drama and pace. That said, the final 20 minutes of the performance are true physical drama at its best and totally gripping.
This is a an excellent piece of early evening drama and, once the scene changes and pacing are corrected, is well on its way to success.