Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Funeral Games - Nuffield Theatre (on tour)

Funeral Games by Unpacked Theatre
Director: Clare Dunn
Reviewer: Nick Hutchinson

I didn't know what to expect as I had never heard of Unpacked Theatre before but I was not dissapointed, this was a fascinating, funny and lively show. Performed in the Nuffield's small studio bar, as an audience member having the cast perform so close really added to the atmosphere of the production.

Funeral Games tells the story of two brothers, who meet up for the first time in twelve years, there father is a funeral director; Henry stayed at home and helped run the family firm, whilst Keith had been away, returning only on the news that their father is close to his death bed. They talk of the past and remember childhood joys and nightmares (mostly the latter) and it is clear that Keith will soon upset Henry’s steady but uneventful life. The true condition of their father is uncertain and although they are differences between them there is the common thread of an overbearing father who rejected one and controlled the other.

The play is truly physical and ‘in your face’. From the start there is interaction with the audience which made some people uncomfortable. It had the hint of pantomime but too much dark humour to fall into that genre in any significant way. The lighting and set were very basic, using tortured and gravely music to highlight the decay of the situation. Two filing cabinets were cleverly used as the main props/Set, acting as beds, cupboards, coffins, grave stones, hillsides, horse drawn hearse and more.

Performed by only two actors (Darren East & Gilbert Taylor) they both seemed to attack the whole performance with a real energy and gusto. They weren’t shy about encountering the audience and the whole event left me feeling that I was part of the action. How on earth 'Keith' managed to contort himself into the bottom draw of the filing cabinet I do not know.

My only critiscism is perhaps a slight mix of other theatrical genres wouldn't have gone amiss, this is a well scripted and performed piece of theatre, I even felt tired watching them, this was a very enjoyable performance and I would definatly try and see Unpacked Theatre again in the future.
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