A piece from the King’s Head Theatre Queer Festival, which commemorates fifty years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Funeral Meats tackles the legacies of same-sex marriage, fame and mental illness. At times poignant, at others slightly lacklustre, director Cradeux Alexander creates human and sympathetic characters yet, at times, there still appears to be a subtle disconnect between the actors and audience.
The succinct, one-act 50 minute drama unfolds in the aftermath of a funeral. Estranged siblings Luke (Cradeuax Alexander) and Laura (Ramona Von Pusch) reunite in their childhood home to say goodbye to their mother, a famous woman who’s passing does not appear to trouble them all too much. On arrival at the house, Luke meets Barbara (Helen Adie), an old friend of their mother’s with a flirtatious air about her; their awkward first encounter entails the now openly gay Luke apologising for a time that he had snuck his hand up Barbara’s skirt many years ago. Later, Luke’s former boyfriend Felix subsequently appears, adding another spanner of awkwardness in the mix. In an alcohol fuelled night that spans from 7pm to midnight, tensions unravel, family relationships are pushed to breaking point. This is a succinct, fifty-minute production that packs an intense plot.
Certain visual elements to the play work strikingly well. The set of the children’s childhood home is nostalgic and tastefully designed. Each element is ever so slightly faded or battered around the edges; eminently homely. Furthermore, each character is dressed well and Cradeux does well to highlight the presence of alcohol without overstating it.
Part of the problem, unfortunately, lay in the acoustics of the venue- a relatively small space with exceedingly loud ceiling fans. This is exacerbated by the fact that the actors tend towards rather hushed voices before the dramatic denouement that were arguably appropriate in the scene but a fatal complement to the background noise. I’m loath to criticise on this basis (and no, I’m not typically hard of hearing) but sadly it does affect the performance, and I’m quite certain that certain nuances in plot and characterisation are lost as a result.
Funeral Meats has the making of a very sophisticated play. The acting is good, the script subtle, the themes relevant and complex. There is, however, a certain spark missing that cannot be attributed to any one fault but rather to a general mood, a slight disconnect between audience and performers.
Funeral Meats played at the King’s Head until August 13 as part of their Queer Festival.