By David Eldridge, based on the film and play by Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov and Bo hr. Hansen
Directed by Jonathan Berry
Set design by Dan Stratton
Costume design by Janice Pytel
Sound design by Christopher Kriz
Research and renderings
Festen began its life as a story captured on film by artists using the “Dogme 95″ outline for film-making, which emphasizes naturalism and eschews any special effects of lighting or elaborate camera set-up. When playwright David Eldridge adapted the story for the London stage, he channeled that school of thought into an emphasis on gaining a gritty, uncensored look at the relationships of these twisted family characters.
In Jonathan Berry’s Steep Theatre production, the goal of the design was to ground the family in a world that feels rich, but dark; and allows scenes to move fluidly from one cold hotel room to another, before settling around the large celebration table where the secrets, lies, and accusations that mar the patriarch’s birthday take place. In lighting, that meant supporting the deliberate, spare set with a cool-to-cold color palette, sharp lines of light for figures to pass into and out of rooms, and careful use of high contrasts between highlight and shadow. Christian’s struggle with the truth is underscored by visions of his dead sister, supported with light by a mysteriously warm and shadowy look that obscures the face of his young niece and drives him deeper into confusion. Once all is laid bare, and all of his siblings are forced into a confrontation with their father, an awkward breakfast under a soft, less shadowy light suggests that from the ugly truth might arise new life.