Funeral Flowers, The Bunker

Image result for bunker theatre, funeral flowers

by Laura Kressly

CW: rape and sexual assault

Making a bouquet of flowers is more than just bunging some random blooms in a vase. It takes care, thoughtfulness, skill and time to craft something beautiful and unique. People need that same sort of care and nurturing too, especially children and teenagers. This high stakes, solo performance shows the pressures that young women encounter daily, and how much they need support to grow and flourish in a world that is out to exploit them.

Angelique is 17, and she knows this predatory world all to well. The ambitious young woman is studying floristry at college in the hopes of having her own business one day. She is also navigating the care system, dating, and life with a mum who’s in and out of prison. Emma Dennis-Edwards narrates Angelique’s day-to-day reflections on flowers, college and her carer Sam with a youthful enthusiasm and wholesomeness contrasted by her dodgy boyfriend Mickey and his even dodgier mate, Rampage.

Dennis-Edwards paints Angelique in wonderful detail, well beyond any stereotype of a troubled kid in care. Her vulnerability is always present though, no matter how grounded and good she is at heart. Mickey and Rampage eventually takes advantage of her trust and generosity in the worst way possible, which she shares in all its gruesomeness. Though more of a narrative about hope, this low point is an infuriating reminder of how there are so many boys who think a girl’s body exists for their pleasure.

Much of the action takes place in a floristry workshop at the front of the stage, with dozens of fragrant blossoms punctuating the space. The audience is then moved to the rear half of the stage to watch her story unfold at home, and the party at Mickey’s where Angelique is assaulted and raped. Though this device indicates scene transitions and negates the need for disruptive set changes, relocating the audience by such a short distance, and only once, is an unnecessary staging choice. The literalness of the separate settings also lacks sophistication and disrupts the story’s flow. The narrative is powerful enough without these trappings and attempts at immersion.

Angelique’s story is one that demands action and puts accountability on adults who work with young people. Yet, it also reminds us how great kids are and how they have the same dreams and worries that their elders do, and are deserving of just as much respect. An excellently written, important story for our times.

Funeral Flowers runs through 4 May.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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