Festen is the devastating story of a familial dinner party where poisonous dysfunction slowly presses to the surface, a stunning play which is by turns blackly comic and terribly powerful.
In a large house in the Danish countryside, a well-off family gather to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of Helge, the patriarch of a chain of restaurants. Of his four children, only three – Christian, Michael and Helene – return to the home where they grew up, as Christian’s twin sister has recently committed suicide. Her absence leaves a jagged hole in the festivities which only grows wider as the parade of salutatory speeches and festivities is hijacked by Christian, who makes a terrible revelation. But rather than breaking open the civilised veneer of the evening, Christian’s accusation only warps and disfigures it: the extraordinary tension of the dinner table perversely punctuated by songs and conga lines is torturously enthralling.
Festen is adapted from Thomas Vinterborg’s screenplay of the Dogme 95 film of the same name. It was first produced at the Almeida Theatre in 2004.