Directed by Annie Griffin, starring Amelia Bullmore, Billy Carter, Raquel Cassidy, Jonah Lotan, Stephen Managan, Daniela Nardini, Chris O'Dowd, Deirdre O'Kane, Lucy Punch and Clive Russell.
'Festival' uses the Edinburgh Festival as a platform to explore a deeper dimension of performers and emphasizes the mutual sense of neediness among them. Debauchery is masked under the pretence of work as random, lonely performers converge on Edinburgh. Aspirations got them there and this is either make-or- breaking point.
Faith Myers (Marshall) arrives in Edinburgh to perform her one-woman play based on the life of Dorothy Wordsworth. Faith's initial excitement is dampened when she hears that her play has been moved to the unsociable slot of 9am in Brother Mike's (Russell) small venue. Brother Mike has his own one-man show, about pedophile priests. With inspiration for the material coming from personal experience, he expresses his dark past on stage instead of coping with his tortured mind. And it has gone too far.
In the pub, obviously, many of the comedians mingle, as do two Irish boys. Comedians Tommy O'Dwyer (O'Dowd), an alcoholic who measures his mood in pints, and Conor Kelly (Carter) are well used to mixing business with pleasure. Tommy is a serious contender for a comedian award and seduces Joan Gerard (Nardini), BBC Scotland's radio reporter, who happens to be on the judging panel. And the less funny Conor blames Ryanair for his failing comedy act – Ryanair lost his bags with his fantastic and funny prop, a hedgehog puppet.
Elsewhere, the opulent Micheline (Bullmore) rents an apartment out to a Canadian theatre group of three. Though complete opposites, Micheline, who is suffering from post-natal depression, falls in love with young Rick (Lotan), an abstract performer. Bringing home the message of the film, Micheline plans to leave for Canada and become a member of the group, using the performance as a way to escape her tough reality.
Partly filmed on location at last year's Edinburgh Festival, this is a film of huge energy capturing the look and sound of a festival. The documentary-style shooting makes it real and the story is deep, probing the essence of a performer.
The comedy is unrelenting with many stand-up gigs and with fantastic innate humour from the two Irish boys and great one-liners from Deirdre O'Kane. The screen is bright and energetic in 'Festival' but the subject is often dark. The climax ironically is the nadir and realization that escapism can't go on forever.
Perfectly balanced, this film is great viewing.