Love London Love Culture spoke to Cradeaux Alexander about the upcoming world premiere of his play Funeral Meats, playing at the King’s Head Theatre from the 8th August….
Hi Cradeaux – could you tell me about what inspired you to write Funeral Meats?
I began writing, just literally putting together a few exchanges between unformed characters, which is often the way with me. These exchanges developed into characters and the situations they were in arose organically. I don’t have an agenda, and while this play touches upon topical politics I leave it to the viewer to go with the narrative as they like.
I’m as interested in the act of writing, and the space and texture within language as much as I am with any sort of plot. Having said that, there is an event in my own life which informed the events in the play around same-sex marriage laws and the havoc they can play with people’s lives for couples from different countries.
I personally had to move countries because the marriage laws in the USA weren’t in place like they are now, and my partner is not American, so when he had to leave the country after having spent a successful decade there, I was forced to leave as well, and come to the UK, where they had more progressive laws on the books at the time. I know many, many couples who have had to split because of this backwards inequality.
Funeral Meats is an unusual title – how did you come up with it? How does it relate to the play?
It’s a pun on ‘meets’, since this funeral is the event that the extended family meet together after a protracted absence. And it alludes to ‘funeral baked meats’ in Hamlet, specifically where Hamlet ruefully suggests that the left-overs from his father’s funeral will double as his mother’s new wedding feast, because the two events occur so swiftly one upon the other. In ‘Funeral Meats’ we see relationships which break apart and reassemble under somewhat suspiciously fast circumstances.
What are your own feelings about the play?
It’s intense. The characters reveal many aspects of the past in a kind of cauldron of regret and revenge. The relationships are complex, and the characters come fully loaded, as it were. I’ve joked that it’s a Greek tragedy; in some cases it is. It takes place over one evening, and the main event that drew the assembled together has already happened before we meet them. We see the characters unfurl this aftermath. And did I mention the comedy…?
If you could pick any three words to describe Funeral Meats – what would they be and why?
Rhythm, Intensity, Laughter-in-the-Dark. They are there in equal measure.
What do you hope that audiences will take away from the production?
I’m interested in the piece as a whole, which means equal attention to structure and story; I hope audiences will see these elements vibrating together. I think audiences will take away a mood that suggests possibilities; perhaps a new take on some big themes like death, fame, mental illness, and marriage.
Have there been any struggles about bringing it to the stage? Is it all working out like you imagined it to be?
It has been a long journey. I began writing the piece last year, and slowly developed it with the Young Vic from last November. Luckily one of the actors from that initial workshop period is still with us now, so there’s a satisfying continuity and development of character there.
My own involvement in the piece finds me both inside the work and outside of it, so I have to wear many hats at once: author, director, actor. This causes some stress, but luckily I am not alone and the group working on this project are very good at solving problems and making things work as they should.
What do you think the main message of Funeral Meats is?
The piece is a dance between formal texture and psychological narrative. That’s the author in me speaking. In terms of narrative and any larger message, I can think of one line on the play, which responds to one of the character’s ideas that the marriage in question (between main male characters Luke and Felix) “took guts”. To this, Luke replies: “There were no guts. It was necessary, normal, non-negotiable.”
I’d like to think we are past differentiating our lives and ourselves based on our biology and natural impulses. I’m past explaining or defending myself. I’m painfully aware of struggles ongoing, including in relatively liberal spaces like London and New York; “Funeral Meats” acknowledges this current situation while allowing its characters to fully inhabit a space of normal everyday freedom in their lives and loves, which is how I live my own life.
Have you got any future plans for the play in terms of letting more theatre audiences experience it after the run at the King’s Head Theatre?
We’ve invited a few choice venues to see the work, and are hoping to build a relationship with another producing house to carry the play beyond this initial run at King’s Head. It’s happening in August, and of course some of our London audience will be away, so we’re keen to carry it further and transfer it.
Funeral Meats is at The King’s Head Theatre on Upper Street from 8th – 13th August. For tickets go tohttps://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873576393 or call 020 7226 8561