Review: Funeral Meats
Image: King's Head Theatre
Barbara - Helen Adie
Luke - Cradeaux Alexander
Felix - Luca Pusceddu
Laura - Ramona Von Pusch
Award-winning company LUXE presents the world premiere of one act drama 'Funeral Meats' by Cradeaux Alexander: a play exploring the legacies of same-sex marriage, fame and inherited mental illness.
Brother and sister reunite at their mother's funeral; while the alcohol flows, a play saturated with recrimination, revelation and revenge overflows.
Wednesday 9 August 2017
Playing as part of the King's Head Theatre's Queer Festival (celebrating the 50th anniversary of the repeal of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967) this is a play written and directed by Cradeaux Alexander, the artistic director of theatre company LUXE Performance.
And just to go one step further and complete a trio of roles in the production, Mr Alexander also takes on one of the characters in his own work.
'Funeral Meats' is a short play, running at around 50 minutes.
For some, that might sound almost too short.
However, it's a play packed to the rafters with issues, among them mental health, sibling rivalry, revenge and, to a lesser extent, death.
Though there are moments of humour, the tone right from the start is serious, almost eerily prophetic with an old booming clock marking out time and suggesting impending conflict as we progress through five scenes, stretching through the period from early evening to midnight.
It's the day of the funeral of a famous woman, the mother of Luke (Cradeaux Alexander) and Laura (Ramona Von Pusch).
It's near the end of the funeral wake when we join events and discover Luke talking to his mother's long-term friend, Barbara (Helen Adie).
Later, Luke's sister Laura joins them wielding a wedding cake (a gay wedding cake at that) which she intends giving to the mourners at the wake.
We instantly recognise intense hostility between the two siblings which boils over when Luke dashes the wedding cake to the ground.
But more hostility and revelations are to follow when Luca Pesceddu's Felix arrives late for the funeral, and we learn of his gay marriage to Luke, and Laura's involvement in splitting up the two men.
Cradeaux Alexander's Luke seems initially rather aloof and detached, somewhat bitter and oddly hostile towards his sister.
But as events unfold we begin to understand a long-suffering man whose life has been crucially affected not only by his sister's mental illness, but perhaps also his mother's variable character which presented "a different person for every occasion".
Whatever your view about writers directing their own work, here Cradeaux Alexander most certainly elicits convincing and moving performances from his talented ensemble.
Ramona Von Pusch presents a convincingly poignant breakdown as the stresses of Laura's illness and the nature of the situation overwhelm her.
And there's fine support in Luca Pusceddu's suitably understated and apologetic Felix, as well as from Helen Adie's elegant and semi-mysterious family friend, Barbara, whose presence provides a link between the siblings and their dead mother.
In many ways, this is something of a marked departure from other productions I've seen from LUXE Performance, though the company's trademark intent of challenging perceptions and understanding is still clearly evident.
Well-cast and earnestly acted, this is a sombre but highly watchable and thought-provoking drama offering, primarily, an unusual perspective on the wider impact of mental illness.
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