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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

A Funeral For My Friend Who Is Still Alive

Kasen Tsui x Cathy Lam

Genre: New Writing, Solo Show

Venue: thespace@Niddry Stree


Low Down

We start with one person anxiously watching us come into the performance space. They then tell us of an encounter when a friend waved at them and told them that they would next see them at “their” funeral. From there the story unfolds of them and their friend, during the troubled transition of Hong Kong from protectorate to new part of China. Our guide has been abandoned by a friend, someone who has disappeared after being elected as a political figure. One of the ways to get them to return, she believes, is to plan a funeral for them, even though they are still alive. Their disappearance after both of them have been chased by people wielding tear gas, emerges as we are taken on a trip down the reality of people who we left behind with democratic and fair expectations in Hong Kong.


Theatrically this has a very able performer who has plenty of nervous energy to expend. The performance begins with clear and concise movements that alert us to the intensity of the emotion of the events. As the performance develops that nervousness takes over and there are times when it becomes ever so slightly less precise. This underlines the chaos of trying to work towards social justice in a system that is slowly removing any such feeling within the lives of the people now trapped into a system that does not recognise their rights. It is clear that the personal and authentic emotions have rawness within them and that does come across, very well.
At times, however, the narrative gets a little lost and we struggle to get the message as clearly as we could. The direction could be neater though in any solo show with such a lot of physicality involved, it can be difficult to find the right pace. Here the pace is fine, but the transitions between sections of the story can be a little lost. It’s a pity as we have a tremendously important story, and our narrator is wholly invested in its telling. I think the idea of the funeral emerges as being one for the friend when it feels like it was, at the beginning, one for our narrator. Better clarity at the beginning would make the whole enterprise more effective.
There is not a lot of theatrical technical wizardry at play which brings the focus clearly on the performance. Structurally it could do with a clearer first half, through by the end that clarity begins to shine through, and we have a better understanding of the emotion tangled up with the events. There is a feeling that you need to know something about the events before having the story explored in front of you – it could have begun with a more exploratory introduction rather than teasing with something which got a little lost. The idea behind this is fantastic and it has a great deal of merit in its originality; it just felt it could be better explained. That’s a pity because Kasen Tsui has an exceptional tale to tell and plenty of ability with which to tell it.