Festen

Festen
By David Eldridge. Presented by Play Dead Theatre. Rippon Lea Estate Ballroom, Rippon Lea House and Gardens. 192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick. 5-22 July, 2018.

This production is a stunning example of site specific theatre which creates the impression that the play was especially written for the space. The opulence of the ballroom and the depth of stage area it provides are all used in a highly creative and effective manner. The attention to detail in the set and the beautifully choreographed movement gives the performance a sense of elegance and eloquence.

The arresting performances from each cast member maximises the impact of the disturbing narrative that unfolds without losing any of the irony and black humour. Christian (Mark Yeates) is a pivotal role which is played with a good measure of intensity. Helge (Adrian Mulraney) effectively conveys the arrogance that makes his character so despicable. Poul (Tref Gare) captures the tone of the black comedy perfectly and provides some much-needed comic relief to the dark subject matter. The Little Girl (Eloise Henry - shared with Isobel Henry) is particularly charming and adds a very spectral quality to the play.

The production often appears to have a Visconti (The Leopard, 1963) style approach to the staging and this makes the performance quite unique. Some strategies to engage the audience more with the setting and the site overall, in order to allow the interactive potential of the space to emerge, would undoubtedly enhance the experience. Nonetheless, this is a well-crafted production that offers a powerful, unusual and visually stunning performance.

Patricia Di Risio

Photographer: Sarah Walker

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