Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Zoo Southside – Main House


Zoo Southside – Main House You may have seen the hype about Funeral already and wondered how a show about rituals and mourning could be so popular or even appropriate at a normally uplifting arts festival. I’d like to think our British culture of silence around death has something to do with its curious appeal. We even struggle to say the word sometimes, replacing it with ‘passed away’ or ‘lost’, yet we long to process the grief that nobody wants us to speak about. We’re lucky that Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed has brought this show to Edinburgh. This…

Rating



Excellent

A unique, moving and thoroughly un-British show exploring our relationship with death.

You may have seen the hype about Funeral already and wondered how a show about rituals and mourning could be so popular or even appropriate at a normally uplifting arts festival. I’d like to think our British culture of silence around death has something to do with its curious appeal. We even struggle to say the word sometimes, replacing it with ‘passed away’ or ‘lost’, yet we long to process the grief that nobody wants us to speak about. We’re lucky that Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed has brought this show to Edinburgh.

This is a very interactive performance, and it’s first thing in the morning, so not one to attend tired or hungover – you need all your faculties to really engage with Funeral and all its stages. The show actually begins in the doorway of the venue, where everyone learns a traditional song, which Google Translate tells me is sung in Esperanto; we then process up the stairs and, if we choose, share the name of someone who has died. I marked the recent and sudden death of my mum’s best friend, Val.

Most of the show takes place in semi-darkness, with only a string of lights or a candle in the room. Some sections are more awkward than moving, like asking us to sit on logs for a long period (I was one of a handful who had to ask for a chair, and I feel like this may be an accessibility issue). The ceremonial elements aren’t what we’re used to at funerals, but here they make sense; objects are wrapped in white tissue paper; random memories of loved ones come to the fore, like ‘the smell of Elnett hair spray on her hair’. Some of the mini rituals are group activities, where we move like lines of ants around the space, or form circles.

At one point, each participant has to throw a handful of colourful confetti in the air, on top of a plinth. I can’t help noticing how we all throw differently and respond differently; one man chooses to leave his confetti on the plinth, like an offering, or like the Jewish tradition of placing stones on graves. With the confetti scattered around us, in our hair and on our clothes, it feels celebratory and freeing, and already some people are crying. Once we leave, people will have no idea those pieces of confetti are from a show about bereavement – they will think we’ve gone to some kind of fun children’s show, and they won’t think to ask why we’re red-eyed.

The last section, where that list of names is read out, is when the floodgates really open for many audience members, of all genders and ages; one woman has to leave because she’s too upset. That list seems to go on forever, referencing so many people, from ‘Juan’ and ‘Cyril’ to the heartbreaking ‘Daddy’, then I hear Val’s name being read out. Whether a death is recent or decades ago, it still has an impact. Funeral reminds us that we need rituals and remembrance, however painful it is to reflect.


Devised by: Ontroerend Goed
Directed by: Alexander Devriendt
Produced by: Charlotte Nyota Bischop, Ode Windels, Ontroerend Goed
Music by: Joris Blanckaert

Funeral plays at Zoo Southside (Main House) until 27 August 2023. Further information and bookings can be found here.


By Sandra Winters

Writer | Author | Wordsmith Passionate about crafting stories that captivate and inspire. Published author of [Book Title]. Dedicated to exploring the depths of human emotions and experiences through the power of words. Join me on this literary journey as we delve into the realms of imagination and uncover the beauty of storytelling.