‘I really want to people to see it and to show them what I can do with it.’ – An interview with Festen Director Josh Harris

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A veteran of theatre, both in terms of directing and acting, Southampton student and Theatre Group aficionado Josh Harris is particularly excited about his latest- and first Southampton University- directing project, an adaptation of Thomas Vinterberg’s infamous Scandinavian power-play Festen.

Ahead of Festen‘s upcoming performances, from 22nd-25th March at the Annex Theatre, The Edge had a chance to discuss his latest project, and what exactly makes it so unique.

Summarise Festen in one sentence.

It’s a highly dramatic, pitch-black comedy set in Denmark. At the same time, it’s modern day but not timeless – time isn’t important for the play.

Why did you want to do Festen specifically? And why directing rather than acting?

It comes from my love of the Thomas Vinterberg play, and the film adaptation, which starred Tom Hardy and Jonny Lee Miller. It was hailed by one critic as the ‘greatest thing to happen in a decade’ for theatre. Most notably, actors aren’t just people playing other people, they really become their characters. Directing means I have a real awareness element- I want to make more people know about it.

Do you think it’s a good play for university students? 

Oh very much so. It has really relevant issues around family and what really constitutes family. It challenges the façade of family for sake of togetherness. There is a deep exploration of attitudes towards differing class and race too. Overall, it comes out as very contemporary, considering the current socio-political climate.

Did you ever consider any alternative plays, or was it always Festen?

I always wanted to do Festen, I really want people to see it and to show them what I can do with it. I do already have my next project lined up already.

Is it possible to ask exactly what is in the pipeline?

I’d like to do Hamlet, but once again put my own spin on it. If you take away the royalty, it becomes a powerful domestic drama about the inability to move on. Or alternatively, I just think I have a love for Scandinavia.

If you had to summarise it in one word, what would it be?

Subverting. More specifically, the plot is subversive; the twists are horrible and my production’s casting choices will subvert expectations considering general acting tropes.

And finally, if you had to be locked in a room with 3 people (dead or alive) in stage and television, who would you pick and why?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. To start with, it’d have to be Daniel Day Lewis – the man is just an impeccable actor, he has never done a dud. Ever. He is on another level of awesomeness. To partner that, Christopher Nolan – the man has never directed a film badly. I love spectacle, but spectacle is better if the story is better and he always prioritises the story and practical effects. And for a wildcard, Charlie Randall – A TG actor I’m very fond of. He’d have some insightful questions and keep me laughing. And now he knows I’m a kiss-ass!

Festen is at the Annex Theatre from 22nd-25th March. Doors open at 7:15 and tickets can be purchased here.

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