Festival (18)

Written and Directed by Annie Griffin
Screening at FACT from 15th-21st July 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Ok, so you’re watching this hilarious comedian doing their routine, right? And every now and then they burst in tears, before quickly recovering enough composure to launch into the next joke. After a while you know he or she is going to break down again, but you don’t know when. The tension is unbearable. And when the next lot of tears come, everyone in the audience gasps because they can’t take the sudden gear change. That would be some comedian. So Festival must be some film, since that was the point of my long and tortuous analogy in the first place.

Set in Edinburgh during the August festival of comedy, theatre, mime and just about everything else, Festival is a rich landscape of fascinating characters – each with their own funny and sad moments. There’s a too-big-for-his-boots joker (Stephen Mangan), and his long-suffering assistant (Raquel Cassidy). There’s BBC Scotland’s most frustrated arts critic (Daniela Nardini), and the veteran Irish comedian (Chris O’Dowd) who can’t seem to decide if he’s after her heart or her vote in the big awards show. There’s the tragic ‘Brother Mike’ (Clive Russell) who is exploring issues of paedophilia in the priesthood, and his tiny friend Faith (Lyndsey Marshal) – whose one-woman show about the life of William Wordsworth’s sister is as bad as that sounds. And that’s just the start. It gets too much at times, to be honest. In a good way.

Some scenes misfire, and there is a significant ick factor to go with the 18 certificate. Most of the ‘joke’ jokes are sexual, and there is one ‘puppetry’ scene which I still can’t believe got past the censors. But there is a more thoughtful humour too, and indeed Griffin goes on to ask important questions about comedy and its role in society.

Never mind all that though; if you’re not easily offended then go for the laughs. If you are easily offended then go to sleep in your cotton wool cocoon instead.

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