Funeral Flowers highlights many themes throughout this self-empowering play. It intertwined the magic of song, poetry, beautiful set designs and promenade to tell the story of 17 year old Angelique, who dreams of being a florist. The 2018 Fringe First award winning play took its audience on a journey of a young girl navigating her way through the care system all while having an abusive boyfriend, dealing with gang violence and with her mum in prison. Written and performed as a one woman show by Emma Dennis Edwards and directed by Rachel Nwokoro, the audience were immediately drawn into the life of a troubled but talented girl who wishes to be understood, loved but most of all respected. Many themes dominated this play, but for me the most prominent were self-love and self-efficiency.
Throughout the play, Angelique is depicted as a strong but somewhat self-doubting South Londoner (all of course accompanied with slang) who knows herself but still needs to grow into herself. As she seeks guidance throughout the play via various female figures such as her florist tutor and foster mum (who is a lesbian, woo representation!) I could not help but feel Angelique was the strongest and wisest of them all, showing true reliance in the face of traumatic and life changing events. Angelique reminded me of some of the troubles teenagers face in their everyday lives such as managing emotions, vulnerability, abusive relationships, struggling to define and listen to one’s own instincts and intuition, bullying, isolation and of course growing up! Angelique moves with such sincerity and authenticity you can’t help but fall in love with her. Her story, allowed the audience to connect and even reconnect with their inner child and remember what it was like growing up, especially with fears of being inadequate and misunderstood all while feeling alone and in some instances trapped and silenced in multiple situations simultaneously.
With the use of promenade, Emma was able to mentally submerge her audience and physically make us a part of her story, building, creating and remoulding each scene so the audience truly felt a sense of belonging and ownership and personalization. Strong, bold and far from naïve, Angelique uses flowers throughout the play to depict different stages of her life, from losing her innocence to new beginnings, moving into her own home and reuniting with her mum. However, the audience is reminded you cannot run away from your problems as her boyfriend reappears after neglecting her during a period where she goes through a major event. The name, ‘Funeral Flowers’ acts as a gateway between the morbid and beautiful realities of life, ‘Everything is temporary like flowers. Growth comes before death’.
Through Angelique’s words, ‘I may rise through the dirt but I’m still here’ allowed me to reflect on the daily struggles and tribulations we all face and sometimes feel ashamed of. But Funeral Flowers reminded me that we are somewhat like flowers ourselves, we rise through the troubling times to grow and become beautiful beings striving for sunlight and nourishment from better environments. Although we are sometimes reminded of the harshness of life, it will pass and the sunlight will once again come out to restore us, replenish us, even the hard times are temporary and there are always brighter days ahead.
This play has been well received and I can see why, not only does this powerful coming of age story depict the complexities of being young, black and a woman growing up without a relatable secure base it also highlights everyone and anyone can create and reclaim their power no matter their situation. This was truly an inspiring and touching play.