Review: Funeral

An elegy to life's shared sorrows

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Aurélie Lannoy in Funeral
Photo by Ans Brys
Published 12 Aug 2023

A spectacle of mourning and memorial, experimental theatre company Ontroerend Goed’s latest show is here to help us acknowledge the inevitable ending of everything. We are an event that will eventually disperse, just as rocks will one day be ground back to dust, and someone you love will become someone you miss. As the audience files into the darkened theatre, we practice the rituals only too familiar to us, like the funeral receiving line; but so too do we experience new ways of celebrating the brevity of life, its brief flash of brilliance before we return to darkness. 

Its undoubted lyricism aside, there’s a certain hollowness in Funeral’s gestures. Part of that is deliberate, of course: culturally, funereal rituals are designed to facilitate the purging of emotion. These rituals are the empty box into which we’re encouraged to place our memories and experiences, so that we may move on. If, however, someone were unwilling, or unable, to conjure up the necessary feeling at this production, Funeral’s procession of acts may simply pass them by. For in its desire for universality, the show elides any sense of context or specificity – and aren’t these so often the things that enrich a life, that make it worth grieving over when it’s done? Even in its act of gathering us together, however, Funeral is a moving reminder that mourning those we love is an experience best shared.