The actress chatted to Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon about starring in The Funeral Director at the Southwark Playhouse. 

Aryana Ramkhalawon (Ayesha), Jessica Clark (Janey) credit - The Other Richard (2).JPG
Aryana Ramkhalawon (Ayesha) and Jessica Clark (Janey) (c)The Other Richard. 

Hi Jessica, what can audiences expect from The Funeral Director? Hi there! Iman Qureshi has created a beautifully poignant but also funny piece, unlike anything else on the London stage. So they can expect a thoughtful and provocative conversation about religion, sexuality and love – and hopefully plenty of laughs too (if we do our job!).

What struck you most about the story when you first read it? Iman’s voice as a writer is so compelling – I was immediately drawn to her natural style and the incredible heart she brings to her characters. At its centre you see a relationship that is nuanced and detailed between flawed and complicated human beings without them becoming stereotypes.

Could you explain a bit more about your character Janey and how she fits into the story? Janey is Ayesha, our protagonist’s, best friend from school. She is a human rights lawyer who left Derby suddenly when she was 16 to go to boarding school and hasn’t seen Ayesha since… You’ll have to come and see the show to find out more…

Is there anything in particular that you think audiences will take away from The Funeral Director? Every audience will be different but my hope is this play causes some who see it to begin to question the choices we make. Speaking with Matt Mahmood-Ogston from the Naz and Matt Foundation (www.nazandmattfoundation.org) recently has confirmed the importance of this play and the questions it raises. For me, these are issues close to my heart concerning sexuality and love that I feel, more than ever, are so important and I hope this will move others too. In the words of Iman, “The only way to change people’s minds – to make them value love over religion – is to make them realise we’re just like them.”

How has it been working with Papatango on the Prize-winner? It’s been so much fun working with Papatango and the whole creative team on this play and they work so hard to ensure everyone involved feels supported and cared for. Working with Iman has been a joy – having her insight in the room during the process has been invaluable, giving us all a richer understanding of the piece as well as her being so trusting of her fellow creatives.

If people are thinking of coming along – what would you say the main reason would be to watch the show? What I love about the play is that the many fragments of the story will appeal differently and the individual storylines will resonate in their own way with each audience member. Oh, and it’s an hour and a half straight through – blissful!

By Emma Clarendon 

The Funeral Director will continue to play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 24th November. For more information visit: https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/the-funeral-director/