The Funeral Director
Nottingham Playhouse (Neville Room)
Runs: 1h 30m: no interval: till 16 March
It’s unashamedly ishoos-led, but the people are real.
A young British Asian couple, Aryana and Zeyd, are successfully running a Muslim funeral parlour in the north of England. Successfully that is until they refuse to serve a young man because they take him to be homosexual. Compounding this problem, but entwined with it, is an already existing, greater and more intimate one concerning the quality of their marriage.
The Funeral Director is an unashamedly ishoos-led play, the ishoos in question being all contemporary ones. There is a plot of course, but it’s a simple, mechanically worked out one, constructed essentially as a vehicle for the ishoos.
That said, we are also made to sympathise and perhaps even identify with some or all the four characters. This is achieved not only by writer Iman Qureshi but by the actors: Aryana Ramkhalawon (Ayesha), Assad Zaman (Zeyd), Edward Stone (Tom) and Francesca Zoutewelle (Janey). Of these, Stone in particular offers a compelling and entirely convincing portrayal of a man whose partner has just died a tragic death – he’s anguished, confused and agitated. And Ramkhalawon augments a good performance with a fine singing voice.
The refusal to serve a gay customer is an obvious reminder of the recent real-life “gay cake” case in Belfast. But there’s a crucial difference. The Belfast couple didn’t turn the customer away because he was gay but because of what he wanted them to do. On the other hand, in this fictitious incident Tom is shown the door entirely because he’s gay, and serving him might not play well in the Muslim community.
At an hour and a half without an interval, The Funeral Director presents a bit of a challenge, but the payback far outweighs the investment. Directed by Hannah Hauer-King for Papa Tango/English Touring Theatre, it’s an accomplished piece of work – save for a cheap and gratuitous crack at Theresa May, which at least makes a change from Mrs Thatcher.
Ayesha: Aryana Ramkhalawon
Tom: Edward Stone
Zeyd: Assad Zaman
Janey: Francesca Zoutewelle
Director: Hannah Hauer-King
Set and Costume Designer: Amy Jane Cook
Lighting Designer: Jack Weir
Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim