Play: The Funeral Director
Playwright: Iman Qureshi
Director: Hannah Hauer-King
Theatre: Southwark Playhouse
Review by Cherise Lopes-Baker
Tackling homosexuality within the Muslim community, Iman Qureshi, winner of this year’s Papatango New Writing Prize, lifts the shroud around a Midlands funeral home director.
Ayesha (Aryana Ramkhalawon) runs the funeral home with husband Zeyd (Maanuv Thiara). When they refuse service to a young man trying to bury his dead Muslim boyfriend, they must deal with the ensuing public legal battle, as well as the private doubts this introduces to their marriage – namely, Ayesha’s long repressed homosexuality. The entrance of a childhood friend and unrequited love, Janey (Jessica Clark), quickly adds fire to a burning flame.
Though the play grappled with important topics, its strong arguments also made for a heavy act. The characters didn’t feel fully explored or sympathetic because they seemed to have one emotion throughout. From beginning to end, the play held one note of bleak anguish, the stage mirroring the tight boundaries of the play’s conversation.
While it brought up important facets to the queer Muslim conversation, such as the role of Western shaming and Britain acting like a morally superior and forward-facing power, it was disappointing to see it proved when Ayesha bent to the shaming by two white characters, instead of finding the capacity and empowerment through herself and her community.
The Funeral Director is at the Southwark Playhouse until 24 November 2018