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Preview: The Funeral Director

Photo: @Craig Sudgen

Hannah Hauer-King Photo: @Craig Sudgen

When asked to describe The Funeral Director, Hauer-King explained that it is a “show about cultural and religious identity and how an individual can reconcile their background with who they’ve become”, both religiously and sexually.

This production contains a diversity of experiences, the importance of this was highlighted by Hauer-King in her comments about the lack of “queer, Muslim characters on stage”, especially women. She added that, beyond queerness, Muslim people are seldom portrayed as “sexual beings” and the play is therefore “quite radical” in this respect. Furthermore, many Muslim actors are cast as either the victim or terrorist, rarely in characters portraying “normal relational dynamics”, The Funeral Director changes this.

Following its run at the Southwark Playhouse in London, The Funeral Director visits HOME with a primarily new cast other than the lead, Ayesha (Aryana Ramkhalawon). This brings “new dynamics and different energy” to the production. Hauer-King explained the importance of the show’s ability to be responsive to the changes in political climate. For example, leading up to this run, the media coverage of some Muslim women against discussions  about homosexuality in schools.

Having studied Theology, Hauer-King acknowledged that “religion is imbued in everything”. She spoke honestly about her relationship with her own religion (Judaism) as a queer woman, recognising the ways she might have “stepped away from [her] religious identity in the process of coming out”.

Set in a Muslim funeral parlour, the play has a specific and focused setting. There is a “sense of speed and urgency about” Muslim burials, they must be performed within 48 hours and the bodies are rarely embalmed unless they need to be transported overseas. The Funeral Director offers some insight into a “sacred space”. This portrayal of different Muslim experiences is something that Hauer-King believes will be “refreshing for people within the community”, seeing “people they can relate to on stage”, “a lot of the humour is not always catered to a white audience”.

Hauer-King praised writer Iman Qureshi for her ability to write about a specific community, without narrowing the target audience. The success of the writing is influenced by Qureshi’s “understanding and connectivity to issues happening here and now”, as well as “her own personal experiences as a Pakistani Muslim”.

Hauer-King also talked about the differences in audiences when touring a show, commenting that London is a very specific type of audience in the same way that Manchester is, and it “feels really exciting” that the response to the production will be different.

The Funeral Director runs at HOME 27th-30th March.


Tags: Funeral Director, home, Iman Qureshi, Islam, muslim, preview, tour

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