Funeral Flowers, both written and performed by Emma Dennis Edwards, is about 17-year-old Angelique, aspiring florist trying to withstand the hardships in her life that repeatedly try to destroy her resolve time and time again. With a powerful protagonist accompanying an equally powerful script of lyrical verse and North London slang, Edwards deftly plays multiple characters to give us the full picture of what goes on in her world. We see her for the most part as herself, but also playing her foster mum, floristry teacher, mother, and boyfriend – a feat that requires real talent and should be applauded.
We see a vulnerability to Angelique behind her confident exterior, and how experiencing sexual violence at the hands of her boyfriend and his gang changes her as she tries to gather the strength to move past it. We see her thought processes as she speaks to us, trying to justify things in her mind to convince herself she’s okay even though the things that happen to her are not okay and neither is she – something that many women can relate to. The way the performs this scene is ingenious; she calls the audience to the middle of the room and we all sit on the floor looking up at her as she performs this heart-wrenching monologue. From then on, the play takes a darker turn as we see a blatant shift in her personality though she tries to conceal her pain. By seeing everything through Angelique’s perspective, we get to see the development of this multi-layered, three-dimensional character, something that is difficult to achieve to this degree when performing as an ensemble cast. She is outspoken and chatty yet uncertain, has potential to succeed but is held back by her experiences. She feels startlingly like a real person – she could easily be someone we know, or even ourselves. What makes the play all the more emotional is that as sad as the story is, it isnt actually unique at all, and everyone in the audience knows that. We’ve heard or lived through countless permutations of the same story. The open-ended finish, where we don’t know whether Angelique really does move past it or not, whether she fulfils her dreams or is doomed to a life like her mother’s, mirrors the uncertainty we all feel as we move through life very realistically.
The stage was surrounded with flowers, making the room smell beautiful despite the intense subject matters, and the immersive aspect of the performance that required us to follow her around the room at times, made this play unique, and definitely one to remember. I’d highly recommend seeing this play, and be sure to look out for Emma Dennis Edwards’s next performance.