Theatre Review: The Funeral Director Depicts A Forbidden Love

The Funeral Director, Southwark Playhouse ★★★☆☆

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Theatre Review: The Funeral Director Depicts A Forbidden Love The Funeral Director, Southwark Playhouse 3
Photo: The Other Richard

Despite its name The Funeral Director, winning play of the Papatango New Writing Prize, is not shrouded in death. It is in fact love — in all shapes and sizes — which prevails; how different religions and communities view varying manifestations of love is what fills this 90 minute production.

Set in a Muslim funeral parlour, the play revolves around Ayesha (Aryana Ramkhalawon) running the business after her mother's death and theoretically in a loving relationship with her comparatively religious husband Zeyd (Maanuv Thiara). When a white gay young man needs their help, prejudices are revealed, and relationships questioned.

In Southwark Playhouse's intimate 'Little' auditorium the stage is tightly sandwiched between two sides of seating, meaning that at almost every important point, half of the audience is looking at someone's back. But the actors' projection is good and even the on-stage crying (of which there is a fair bit) carries to each corner of the room and contrasts with the many awkward silences.

Fast-paced music between scenes works well to build suspense suspense and tension, and if the plot is a little predictable, there are still surprises. Like the dildo, something which took us off guard.

The stand-out performer is Ramkhalawon; her take on Ayesha is heartfelt, sincere and downright impressive. Alternating between a Midlands twang and tuneful Arabic singing, she the conflicting sides of Ayesha pretty perfectly, and has some smart-mouthed one-liners.

For a play that tackles gender, sexuality, religion and death The Funeral Director is a qualified success and Iman Qureshi's drama a worthwhile watch.

The Funeral Director, Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD, from £16. Until 24 November

Last Updated 22 November 2018