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Four teens play out their personal dramas at a 'last days of Rome'-style music festival
If, for some reason, you ever want to see the megadrama of hormonal adolescence multiplied to the power of fuck, go to a music festival. A mecca for school leavers who have just burned their uniforms, music festivals are lawless bacchanals of drug use, alcohol abuse, anonymous sex, broken friendships, screaming matches and mud. There’s also the occasional song.
‘Festivus’, from youth film and theatre company Signature Pictures, captures this environment so perfectly you should attend it wearing wellies. From the suspect tatters of toilet paper littering the astro-turfed stage to the constant, throbbing din of music in the distant background, it’s as close to T in the Park as theatre’s gonna get without hijacking the Slam Tent. Four horny, messed up teenagers lounge about on derelict camping gear amidst a fresh snowfall of ketamine and crushed lager cans; as they lose each other, find each other, fight, flirt, fuck and forget, the script unfolds with secrets, violence, betrayal, bodily fluids and #banginchoons.
The group is attending Festivus in togas and legionnaire outfits that are (a) authentic fest fancy dress but also (b) a reminder that music festivals are very much ‘last days of Rome’ scenarios. It’s not subtle, but since when was that a word applicable to teen angst? The young cast perform magnificently, only occasionally tripping over a clumsy sentence in Sami Larabi's otherwise smooth-flowing and natural script. Sally Horwill is especially praiseworthy as Laura, who flips convincingly between loyal, gossipy, smitten, sweet, manipulative and faux-outraged with the speed of a coked-up heartbeat.
None of the characters are very pleasant; their actions, words and attitudes are mostly self-centered and horrendous. In other words, they’re teens at a festival, fighting to be treated as adults while refusing to relinquish childhood; aching to express themselves openly while shielding themselves from ridicule; aspiring to romantic ideals while doing their best to fit in with the shouting, puking, dancing, rutting, shitting world around them. The pressure cooker environment of a festival, where you’re constantly meant to be having the best, FOMO-defeating time of your life every waking minute, is a place where high drama is right at home – and ‘Festivus’ utterly nails it.