Funeral Meats is a play revealing how individuals deal with grief whilst having to cope with issues causing hurt and pain to others. Quickly paced (it runs an hour), an evening from 7pm to midnight unfolds to reveal the truth behind an infidelity and an honest representation of mental health issues. Each character brings a different aspect to the story and this is where Funeral Meats is at its best. On the whole, however, the story lacks engagement, despite peaking with several socially relevant points.
A funeral of a vegan mother is the beginning of this story and intriguingly two individuals hide away into a room separate from the bleak encounters. Meeting under the pretence of being strangers, it soon becomes apparent through a past risqué meeting, that they have once met.
Which shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise as Barbara (Helen Adie) reveals her close relationship with the deceased while Luke (Cradeaux Alexander), grieving over his mother’s bonds with her friend, reminds her of what happened in the past. Upon the arrival of his twin sister, Laura (Romona Van Pusch), cakes are destroyed and past infidelities revealed.
Part of the Queer season at the Kings Head, this focus on family drama has cleverly been devised by Lux Theatre to present a play about grief with gay characters, rather than the other way around. The talk about an overbearing cruel mother and her influence on the twins never distracts from the painful dealings of brother and sister.
During the six hours covered in the activities in the play, these four individuals endure Luke’s constant leaving of the room in anguish; one assumes his pain is so great he may never return, yet, with the best lines, he makes a comical point: everyone’s threatening to leave, yet they’re all there.
Upon Felix’s (Luca Pusceddu) arrival, it’s expected that explosions will ignite and the twist at the end of Funeral Meats confirms this prediction. Romana Von Pusch vitalizes the script, demonstrating Laura’s illness (inherited from her mother), and an almost-tragedy consumes her from within. A terrible illness played extremely well. In contrast, during these moments, Cradeaux’ Luke spins into sheer selfishness, revealing his narcissistic views.
Luke’s behaviour is not all one sided;he garners sympathy. Traumatised by his mother’s loathing and the loss of his husband, his constant state of insobriety is explicable, yet his anger is violently targeted towards his sister, which exposes him as a vindictive, brutal brother. He may have the best lines, but it’s not surprising given the self-loathing heartbreak. Additionally, his sexuality comes across confusingly, as grief bleeds it’s way well into lechery. Constant eye gazing between him and Barbara distracts from the crux of the plot.
The design reflects a home where the living room is connected to kitchen. It provides the effect of being in the personal space of this family, yet it doesn’t allow the audience to be immersed into the storyline. For example, to magnify intense moments, the ones in which undercurrents have the potential to surface, may have been achieved had action been set on the same level as the audience. The lighting effectively alludes to being in some person’s deprived home, accentuating wet wallpaper, and allowing the fire exit sign to be disguised as light coming from the back garden.
This is an interesting addition to Luxe Theatre’s programming. Characterisation and storyline are the strongest points for Funeral Meats however the script needs development and considering, it’s an hour long piece in playing time, prolonged pauses have the (presumably) opposite intended effect.
Ramona Von Pusch’s final breakdown deserves recognition – rounding on the effect of parents on the next generation.