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Theater version of touted Danish film goes on stage December 4, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Stage & Theater.
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Director Aliki Danezi-Knutsen, stunned by ‘Festen’ on screen, uses powerhouse cast to tell devastating story > ‘Festen’ is now being staged at the Thiseion Theater

The Danish film “Festen” (Celebration) made a tremendous splash eight years ago because of both its subject matter, a milestone birthday party that turns into a family crisis, and unique script by the film’s director Thomas Vinterberg. A stage version hit theaters a few years later, arriving in Greece less than two months ago.

The Thiseion Theater in Athens began staging “Festen” in late October with a heavyweight cast of local actors on board. Directed by 33-year-old Aliki Danezi-Knutsen, who was born in France, raised in Cyprus and educated in New York City, it tells the story of a father’s 60th birthday party, a son’s shocking secret, and the crumbling of a seemingly happy family.

The lead actors include Constantinos Markoulakis as the revelatory son, Alexandros Mylonas as the father, Themis Bazaka as the mother, Angeliki Papathemeli as the daughter, and Yiannis Stankoglou as the other son.

“The film had devastated me, both in terms of script and theme,” said Danezi-Knutsen, who studied film and philosophy in the United States. She lived in New York City until recently, when she moved to Athens. She has also made two films and is preparing a third. Danezi-Knutsen, like other admirers of “Festen,” was taken in by the award-winning film’s story, which was woven into raw, piercing footage shot with a hand-held camera.

In the film, the family meeting that begins as a celebration steadily develops into a psychological thriller. Before long, the celebrants are sinking into emotional oblivion and the camera documents it with a devastating precision. Vinterberg saw a deep theatrical presence in his film; he had once said that cinema and stage could not have come any closer than they did in this movie. The theater world noticed this as well.

Not long after the film’s release, an English producer asked Vinterberg and “Festen” associates to prepare a version for the stage. The team’s result failed to satisfy the producer and the task was passed on to an equally young yet seasoned English playwright, David Eldridge. His adaptation of the Danish film proved a huge success in London in 2004 before it traveled to Broadway last March for more accolades. Now in Greece, the play promises more of the same power.

“It’s a story which, through the microcosm of a family, touches on numerous social and political issues with honesty and truth about what’s truly happening,” said Danezi-Knutsen.

The Thiseion Theater for the Arts is situated at 7 Tournavitou street in Psyrri, Athens. For further information on shows and tickets, call 210 3255444.

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