Through well-crafted scenes, Funeral Meats examines the intricacies of a fractious family. Revelling in the collision of conflicting worlds, the intimate drama has some charm but falls foul of a serious affliction of melodramatic acting.
The worn childhood home of Luke and Laura makes for an intimate backdrop to observe fractious interactions between estranged siblings, ex-spouses and a mysterious friendship. Through well-crafted scenes, the dramatic nature of their histories are subtly revealed with the action only tipping into melodrama in the final 15 minutes. That being said, the nuance of the written form can only off-set melodramatic acting so far.
At their mother’s funeral, siblings Luke (writer/director Cradeaux Alexander) and Laura (Ramona Von Pusch) clash over their fraught history involving Felix (Luca Pusceddu), Luke’s ex-husband. Barbara (Helen Adie), an unusual addition, is their late mother’s former companion. The interactions between the small cast begin in understated, elegant fashion but through the 45 minute run time descend into melodrama. Barbara lingers on every word in such an overtly sexual fashion and whilst this is clearly indicative of her character, it is so emphasized that it becomes comical at the most severe of moments. Laura, with a strongly European ‘American’ accent, presents beautifully in the first half but loses touch of sincerity in the climax of the play where she falls foul of overacting. In contrast, Luke – the centrepiece of the production – is played with tact and subtly and anchors the piece in realism even in the moments that it becomes to fray.
The themes of fame and inherited mental illness are discussed with some interesting insight, tact and impact. The climax of the play is the revelation of aforementioned inherited illness, and is done so in an intentionally jarring fashion. The extremity of this moment is clearly intended to shock; however, it slips into absurdity and presents as an unrealistic sliding in and out of an intensely psychotic episode (lasting no longer than a minute). Perhaps, if this had been more effectively seeded throughout and didn’t follow as many troupes of soap opera psychosis, it could have been more impactful.