Walking into the Bunker Theatre, you are immediately struck by Minglu Wang’s set design; it’s an attack of the senses with fresh flowers winding around railings, hanging from the ceiling and sprawled on the floor. Protagonist, Angelique is played by writer Emma Dennis Edwards, and she beckons the audience in, inviting them to sit on cushions and handing them flowers – it’s clear from the beginning that this is a truly immersive experience.
In this one-woman show, Angelique effortlessly draws us into her narrative with the light-hearted innocence of a seventeen year old. She talks about her mum’s imprisonment, life in the foster care system, and her troubled boyfriend Mickey mixing with the wrong crowd. She carefully skirts over any negativity with flower facts she’s learned from her floristry course at college, and frequently fantasises about her future of owning her own florist, and flower arranging for London Fashion Week. The language is beautifully poetic, and often feels like a spoken word piece, with elements of half rhyme and sing-song rhythm. Flowers are frequently used metaphorically; Angelique often focuses on the purity of white flowers, stemming back to her naïveté and innocence hidden beneath her humour and bravado.
It’s clear from the start that this is not a “sit down and listen” play. Angelique is interactive and moves the audience onto the giant cushioned floor in the middle of the space, scattered with white cushions and a duvet. Shocking themes of rape and consent are challenged in this space, and the intimacy of the surroundings hits the message right in the stomach. Rachel Nwokoro’s direction ensures that the audience cannot simply shy away from these themes: it is real, and it happens far too frequently to ignore. The lighting design by James Dawson and soundtrack is inspired, setting the tone perfectly. The audience are openly rooting for Angelique; she’s funny, likeable and immensely determined. Dennis Edwards holds the space effortlessly, easily jumping between various characters with clear vocal changes and physical behaviours. She is undoubtedly endearing, and you find yourself wanting to see where her story takes her next.
Funeral Flowers is easily the most engaging, heart-breaking, yet life-affirming monologue of 2019. Angelique proves that through the darkness, she can always count on her inner-strength to push through, as the sunflower she truly is.