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

Emma Dennis-Edwards’ [1] 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’ [2]

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

Production Information

Production
Funeral Flowers
Venue
The Bunker
City
London
Starts
April 15, 2019
Ends
May 4, 2019
Press night
April 17, 2019
Authors
Emma Dennis-Edwards
Director
Rachel Nwokoro
Set
Minglu Wang
Lighting
James Dawson
Stage manager
Anna Sheard, Rike Berg
Cast includes
Emma Dennis-Edwards
Producer
Harts Theatre,  Power Play, The Bunker
Running time
1hr