Familie Flöz: Feste

Peacock Theatre, London
February 3, 2023

For an evening of entertaining theatre, spiced with acute social commentary, Familie Flöz fits the bill on all counts. It’s accessible to all ages, crosses language barriers and whether you are a dance, theatre or music fan there will be something for you.

Feste is a play about a wedding. There is a wedding dress, a pretty confection of white tulle and a bouquet but, more correctly, it’s about all the things that happen on the sidelines.

The setting is the service area, the site for backstage action where disasters are fomented and mostly survived. As the programme notes inform us; failure plays a secret leading role in life and this is certainly the case in Feste.

Feste by Familie Flöz
Photo Simon Wachter

Andres Angulo, Johannes Stubenvoll and Thomas van Ouwerkerk, are the three (and yes, there are only three) astonishingly versatile artists who take on dozens of roles. The quick changes backstage are probably worth a show of their own. The men are only distinguishable by their varied height as each mask creates a totally new person with their own body language, mannerisms and gestures. These are so finely and accurately drawn that you can almost hear the dialogue.

A prequel, where a spaceman meets an angel at a fancy dress party and impulsively proposes, sets the ball rolling. The bride, Van Ouwerkerk, is otherworldly and fey; the cleaner, a down-to-earth motherly figure, is Stubenvoll; while Angulo plays a homeless pregnant woman with surprising powers. Peripheral to this powerful trio of women are the many waiters, the man next door, the bolshie cook armed with a fearsome knife, a bridegroom, a manager and, one of my favourites, the bossy red stockinged woman constantly calling out everyone else’s faults, who is discovered to be having a secret liaison with one of the waiters.

Feste is peppered with vignettes of everyday life: getting into a right pickle over the dog poop on your shoes, two neighbours dreaming of lottery wins unsuccessfully scratching their cards, the constant wrangling over who dumped their garbage in the wrong place, trying to fix a dodgy light connection and forgetting to return a borrowed pen. All the while there are mishaps with deliveries of the bridal dress and bouquet, in placing the figures of bride and groom correctly on the top tier of the cake and getting that all important first dance rehearsed.

The detail is impeccable and all the while an overarching message to humankind is being shaped. The homeless, pregnant woman is the mystic lynchpin in the story. She waters a thirsty houseplant from her precious water supply showing the kindness so often seen in those who truly know the hardships of survival. When the man next views his plant, it is blooming and in the final moments we see a house bursting with an Amazon of greenery. The bride is the first to take notice and pity on this woman. The cleaner adds her support buying her, sadly unsuitable, shoes but also a baby romper and music box with a dancing ballerina. The pregnant woman is entranced with this toy and spins the handle with great speed and a nod to the musicians playing side stage whose music gentle supports the action.

The powerful final scene is the birth of the baby, the cleaner becoming the midwife as the bride spins in a world of her own. The power and magic of theatre is undeniable as the three men stand on stage at the end and remove their masks to audience amazement and approval.