Southwark Playhouse – until 24 November 2018
Guest reviewer: Shaun Dicks
The illustrious Papatango writing prize is now in its excellent ninth year. It’s brought to light some wonderful pieces of work like Tomcat by James Rushbrook and Trestle by Stewart Pringle. This year it is The Funeral Director by Iman Qureshi.
Here we follow the story of Ayesha, a Muslim funeral director who gets a client that forces her to confront a secret she wasn’t ready to face, one she was ready to take to the grave. Here we confront gender, religion and sexuality. Hotbeds of discussion and dissection. Here we need to be brave together.
Qureshi’s script is pitch perfect. The dialogue is slick, tight and meaningful. There is a wonderful balance of humour, poignancy and seriousness. The humour is a highlight, as it is all culturally relevant and well thought out. The direction by Hannah Hauer-King is perfection. Also, the set, lighting and sound design by Amy Jane Cook, Jack Weir and Max Pappenheim is flawless and complements one another.
The best part of the show though is the people that bring it to life. Every actor, Aryana Ramkhalawon (Ayesha), Maanuv Thiara (Zeyd), Tom Morley (Tom) and Jessica Clark (Janey) present such well thought out and multi-dimensional characters. They each play their part in a very affecting story. But the star of the show is Clark as Janey. Clark is an absolute force. Her freedom on stage is refreshing. Her comedic timing is just brilliant, but her skill shown when having to present tender moments is astounding.
The crowning glory of this show is the story. It’s poignant, affecting and necessary. The crossing of gender, religion and sexuality is a very hot topic in modern times. When tackling them it is hard to pitch it right. The Funeral Director pitches it perfectly. There are a few scenes that just hit you. They strike you with a message and emotion. They are worth the ticket price alone. Everything else is just a bonus.