Glastonbury The Play – Exclusive launch night review

Exclusive photos and the first review of Zoe Lewis's Glastonbury The Play. Starring Keith Allen and designed by Damien Hirst, it triumphantly captures the true feeling of twenty-first century Glasto.

[l-zone2]A theatrical production designed by Damien Hirst(famed for cutting up anything with a face in the name of ‘art’) – and Keith Allen(last seen breaking television sets whilst dancing with his knob in a didgeridoo backstage at Glasto 2002) – is never going to be, what you might, say ‘regular’. [r-zone1]Especially not when its subject matter concerns an event where the great unwashed come together with the very elite layer of A-list musical celebrity to indulge and invent new kinds of debauchery, in a field, somewhere in Somerset. First came the enigma of the Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts, now we have the spectacle that is Glastonbury: The Play.

[l-zone3]First off; don’t expect seats. It’s all arses to the groundsheet, reminiscent of one of those freezing late night escapes to the comedy tent. Held in a large marquee, complete with portaloos and neon lit fencing, there’s a bar with a choice of burger van and organic soup stall selling the finest cuts of animal hide and carrot cake. There’s no fleecing Scousers though, and it is safe to park your car. Having said that, we are in Cardiff tonight…

[r-zone4]Performed across two revolving stages with a myriad of fantastically produced backdrops; it’s a tale covering every major theme of everyone’s time at Glasto. Sex, lies, love, drugs,  loudness, losing people, commercialism, hippies, security, VIPs and violence. Whether you’re crusty veterans from the heyday of Bolan or you popped your festival cherry this year, you’ll definitely associate with much of what it covers.

Set around the crossed paths of five main characters, it’s a dry-witted expose of the dark side of Glasto. Characters like New-Age Traveller, Freddy, a 31 year old ex-public schoolboy at the festival with his Hippy circus troupe stand for the ‘good’ of it all. He meets and falls in love with Marie, a 17 year old festival virgin there without her parents’ permission to see her pop idol ‘Seline Prima’. [l-zone5]Pretty and naive, she’s willing to love anyone, and will do anything for a chance to meet her idol. When she meets Champion, the pop princess’s 29 year old PR man, she doesn’t think twice about indulging in a bit of coke action backstage.

Full marks to Zoe Lewis for creating a character that VF is so very familiar with and also for introducing ‘fluffing’ to the many young festival goers watching this play.


[l-zone1]Unlike Champion though, his model girlfriend Babe doesn’t hate festivals, but as it dawns on her that he’s in love with the starlet he promotes and doesn’t want her anymore she doesn’t really know what to do. Though she offers herself to Freddy, she refrains from giving in to Nevin, a 31 year old Essex builder determined to inflict his anger on anyone.

[r-zone2]Alongside a stereotypical Scourser and bullish security guard, their trails all manage to intertwine as the love twist story spirals towards tragedy. Freddy and Marie are in love, Babe is in love with Champion who is in love with Seline Prima, who subsequently sacks him, spurring him on to try his luck with Marie, who’s only reason for being there is to see Seline. Pissed off that he’s lost his mates, Nevin spends the weekend off his head determined to intrude on anyone and take it out on genuine people like Freddy.

[l-zone3]Hardened music journos that we are, we’re not going to try and offer any drama critique; but with a claim of wanting to capture the essence of Glasto totally fulfilled, any slight shortcomings it may have had as a ‘piece of theatre’ can thus be overlooked. The characters are all very stereotypical, but they perfectly encapsulate the individuals you’re like to meet. There’s never any let up in the story, and though we weren’t treated to any live music – [r-zone4](licensing problems after tonight’s event got moved to a more residential area), the sharp, biting and often hilarious script keep out minds off the cold for ninety minutes. Glastonbury The Play, like the festival, is quite unlike anything you will have ever seen. We can’t comment on the[l-zone5] idea of it being ‘an event’ in itself, (though the Brighton and Manchester legs which feature bands like Electric Soft Parade and Haven should be good), but as a piece of festival based post-modern art-theatre it’s incredibly enjoyable, and unmissable for anyone with an interest in Glastonbury.



Wednesday 23rd to Saturday 26th October –
Manchester Whitworth Park

Wednesday 30th to Saturday 2nd  November –
Birmingham Cannon Hill Park

Wednesday 6th to Sunday 10th November –
Brighton The Gardner Arts Centre

Order from the VF Ticket Store – £15 each or £10 concessions. Don’t try climbing the fence.

Each performance of Glastonbury  features brief performances from musicians and DJs who feature as part of the storyline. The list of acts and DJs now performing within Glastonbury  are New Order (in Manchester), UB40 and Ocean Colour Scene (in Birmingham) and variously, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Electric Soft Parade, Artful Dodger, The Candy’s, British Sea Power, Alpine Stars, Haven, Skint Records, Maximum Roach, The Levellers,George Thompson, Jean Jaques Smoothie, Dynamo Dresden, Jo Watson, Jim (Shaft) Ryan, Angel, Jon DaSilva, Dave Beer, Bez, Siamese, Lotte, Martin Green.