Playbill Pick: Funeral at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe Playbill Pick: Funeral at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Ontroerend Goed has created a beautiful immersive theatrical experience, that is also a community healing ritual.

A scene from Funeral

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.

I first encountered the Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed when they presented their ingenious show Are we not drawn onward to new erA at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this past January. As the wordplay fans among you may have noticed, that title is a palindrome (it reads the same forwards and backwards). Miraculously, the show was too! All the dialogue in the first half sounded like gibberish and the actions all seemed a bit odd. But then they played a video recording of the first half in reverse—the gibberish all transformed into English, and all of those odd actions suddenly made sense. As I said, ingenious. 

Ontroerend Goed performed Are we not drawn onward to new erA at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe back in 2019. They’re back in Edinburgh this year with an immersive experience that they describe as “a collective ritual about the finiteness of things.”

Funeral is performed, appropriately enough for an experience about ritual and mourning, in the former Nicolson Street Church. The church dates back to 1820, and is—during the Fringe—home to the venue Zoo Southside. Funeral begins with the audience gathered into the lobby of the church, where we are taught a hymn, line by line (it's not in English), that we will be asked to sing later on. We are also told that, if we would like, we can give one of the performers the name of a loved one who has passed on, and they will write the name down, and recite it as part of a ritual later in the performance. 

I will stop my detailed description there, so as not to spoil the experience for anyone else lucky enough to see it. I will say that there is a lot of standing required—though there are seats available for anyone who requires one. There was also one particularly beautiful section that involved, unexpectedly enough, confetti.

I hesitate to use the word “show” to describe Funeral. It is a series of rituals related to community and collective mourning. It’s a beautiful, and incredibly moving experience. Near the end, I heard both sniffling and sobbing from many of the audience members in the room with me. We’re given a chance to recover at the end, but personally, I needed a long walk and some fresh air to ground myself afterwards.

Funeral is running at ZOO Southside through August 27. For tickets, click here. The run is currently sold out, but there is a returns queue available before the performance, outside the theatre.

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