Scot Williams brings one of the most powerful plays ever written to the Liverpool stage for the very first time and I was pleased to catch up with him at Liverpool Media Academy (LMA) following rehearsals.
Williams explains that FESTEN is a stage adaptation by David Eldridge of Thomas Vinterberg’s Cannes Jury prize-winning Dogme film of the same name. When it first premiered on the British stage in 2004 it was described by one reviewer as ‘one of the most powerful, poignant and overwhelming evenings I have ever spent in the theatre’.
Williams provides the background to the play which observes the events that unfold at the ancestral home of three adult children during a reunion to celebrate their father’s 60th birthday. As the time arises for birthday speeches to be made, one of the children stands and as he begins to talk it is clear that rather than praising his father he is in fact accusing him. The play proceeds to examine the family’s turbulent response and, in a somewhat Hamlet-like overtone, to discover whether the son’s cold rage is justified or the product of a deranged imagination.
The play is presented as a black comedy which enables to engage more closely with issues which we may find hard initially to acknowledge – very much like the family in the play – and which in turn forces us to confront some of our own reactions to the events unfolding and how they correspond to events in the real world we see unfold around us as well as within our own lives. We all chuckle at Trump’s narcissistic behaviour and sometimes wonder what he’s going to do next: how many of us have experienced similar emotions and disturbed behaviours in our own relationships with others? How many of us have been the instigators of such behaviour without perhaps realising it? Our learnt behaviours can often play out in ways we couldn’t imagine and too often we don’t stop to consider our own actions and the effect they may have on others. Sometimes we – or they – may simply play the victim but there comes a time when one has to ‘be the change you want to see’ if only to improve oneself or to mitigate the impact of others on ourselves.
It is clear to see Williams’s passion for the piece, driven by his experience of people having suffered from the sociopathic behaviour of others. Accordingly, he has teamed up with NAPAC (The National Association for People Abused in Childhood) and pledged to donate 100% of profits to help aid this important charity. NAPAC had over 85,000 call attempts to its support line last year and took over 6,500 calls. It is planning to double the number of calls it can take over the next year. Peter Saunders, Founder of NAPAC, notes: ‘this is an important piece of theatre that shines a spotlight on the challenging issue of child abuse. Childhood trauma damages people, but recovery from abuse is possible at any stage in life’. Further details on this wonderful charity https://napac.org.uk/
Williams – star of such films as Backbeat, Hillsborough, The Crew, Tube Luper, Clubbed, Redirected, and Just Charlie – teaches two days a week at LMA and FESTEN will be the final year students end of year production following the success of last year’s Seven Acts of Mercy which focused on the impact of homelessness.
FESTEN performs at The Hope Street Theatre for three nights – 23rd - 25th May 2019 at 19:30, with further details and tickets available via www.hopestreettheatre.com/