TR Warszawa's performance of Festen (The Celebration) made me want to revisit the terrific Dogme film it is based on. Adapted for the stage by Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov, this world-renown Polish theater troupe delves into the murky waters of a family reunion where family secrets spill out in humorous and unsettling ways.
Christian's announcement is met with unexpected resistance by the guests and for a moment we are left to wonder about Christian: his motives and the truth. But like the persistent ghosts that haunt Macbeth, Christian fights on. With the help of the staff who have long known about his struggles, they conspire to keep the guests trapped at the hotel. Once Christian has a captive audience, he finds his voice and forces the family to hear him.
As with any theatrical performance with supertitles, it is a challenge
to take in the acting and staging when you are often forced to look in
one place for the dialogue. The play was largely staged in one central area which was helpful but when scenes took place on Stage Left it was hard to focus on the action when the supertitles were Stage Right.
I enjoyed Andrzej Chyra's performance as Christian. He brought sympathy and sweetness to a character who must be both adult man and child in his father's presence. Jan Peszek made Helge severe, stoic, and a frightening presence even if he was not a physically imposing man. I was less clear about Helene's character and emotional state throughout but that seemed to be a combination of confusing staging, vague writing and frenetic performance.
The adaptation is strongest with the central family story and weakest
with the subplots relating to the children's involvement with the
staff. Lack of time to development those plot strands or less specific
performances made that aspect of the play less effective. Was glad to get out of my theatrical comfort zone a bit and take in some truly international theater.