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Funeral Flowers review at the Bunker, London – ‘engagingly performed and smartly written’

Emma Dennis-Edwards in Funeral Flowers at the Bunker, London. Photo: Kofi Dwaah
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Emma Dennis-Edwards’ piercing one-woman show, a Fringe First winner in Edinburgh last year, powerfully picks apart the individualism that often lurks beneath success-against-the-odds stories.

Seventeen-year-old Angelique’s mum is behind bars and her dad has long gone. But she has a plan: she wants to become a florist. She has some talent, and a caring foster parent too. Her life isn’t that bad. Or so it first seems.

Funeral Flowers is permeated with Dennis-Edwards’ warmth as a performer and a writer. She has a superb ear for the rhythms of speech. As a performer, she slips seamlessly between accurate accents as Angelique recounts her talks with the people in her life. As a writer, she has a sharp eye for personality-illuminating details.

A couple of semi-immersive moments in Rachel Nwokoro’s production are logistically awkward, but Dennis-Edwards’ gentle snark stops things feeling forced. As she gathers the audience around her on stage, the show at first feels like a breezy bit of fun. But when she starts to describe a night of spiralling abuse at the hands of her gaslighting boyfriend and his gang leader, it quickly becomes gut-wrenchingly intense.

Nwokoro directs with sensitivity, while Minglu Wang’s backdrop of fresh flowers – dramatically lit by James Dawson – across a monochrome set provides a delicate visual metaphor.

The production rips along for 60 minutes. Its brilliance lies in the bravery of its ending, which rejects new-start neatness. The audience is left suspecting that, for all her spirited determination, Angelique’s troubles might be more than she can overcome.

Actor and writer Emma Dennis-Edwards: ‘Your value is not based on your work’

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Verdict
Engagingly performed and smartly written one-woman show that’s both charming and challenging
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