Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Stacy Meyer’s show is called ‘The Funeralogues’ for a reason. It sounds like it’s a series of stories, or monologues, about funerals. That’s exactly what it is, but it makes death funny. In a way, that makes it a very human show; we often respond to death with laughter (see: gallows humour). Meyer allows us to laugh in the face of grief.
With her big kid’s eyes and open, naive-sounding vowels you could be forgiven for not taking her seriously. But she’s actually got a very well-structured show, one which revels in toeing the line of indecency. Being set within a funeral, the show always feels as though there are some things that shouldn’t be said; no one speaks ill of the dead, nor are they ever entirely honest at a funeral. It’s not the done thing. Meyer treads as close to that line as she dares, but could probably get a little closer.
Meyer engages well with her audience, having conversations with them and allowing her script space to breathe. This is fun, as it allows us to feel involved and makes the whole thing rather conspiratorial when the hilariously downbeat musician returns to the room. On the downside, her audience might be in danger of being funnier than her; Meyer’s humour is the sort that treads close to outrageous, so raises titters rather than belly laughs.
Her stories about childhood funerals struck a chord with me until I realised they were funerals for Barbie dolls, not cousins or grannies. In fact, Meyer consistently does this, she undermines expectations and refuses to allow her material to be taken seriously. Alas, when a respectful silence does fall, the comedy loses its power. Suddenly, the show has got all serious and we remember the funeral setting with a hush.
The laughs also dry up a little as we wait during Meyer’s character changes. Each character is well-drawn, and often funny, but sometimes it takes too long to swap – especially when two of them are having a conversation. Her characters reveal a faint, humorous obsession with the rituals of death. She assembles a crew of funeral-crashers, like herself, who share her faintly warped view of the world.
Meyer just needs to tighten up her changeovers and get a little more daring for this show to become the full-on celebration of life and funerals that it deserves to be.