Funeral @ Zoo Southside

Grieving becomes a communal act in Ontroerend Goed's interactive piece Funeral

Review by Josephine Balfour-Oatts | 29 Aug 2023
  • Funeral

Ontroerend Goed’s Funeral is a reminder of the impermanence of our place in the world. It is about transience. It is about remembering, and it is about the things we forget to remember. It begins with singing; the warm towels, given out at the door, cool rapidly; the smell of citrus fades from the air, the skin. We give names belonging to the people we miss – living or not-living, that we’ve lost or lost touch with – and we congregate in a room full of new faces, and shake hands. 

Logs are passed from person to person – we sit, side-by-side, as if on pews. The stage wears a curtain of gauze like one would a mourning veil. A candle is lit. Members of the company offer memories – “Her handwriting with the swirling Gs.” "Racing Hot Wheels cars.” “The accident outside the laundrette.” – and these offerings, these yearnings, feel intimate, personal, true. We sense then see them cry. 

There is dignity in the darkness. In this space, time is treated like a living thing, always moving, passing, or passing away. In a theatrical ceremony that considers the finiteness of all things, grieving becomes a communal act, eased by togetherness and proximity. We are invited to engage in a rite of remembrance – to scatter confetti like ashes. It is joyous, celebratory. There is room for us all to feel exactly what we need to feel. 

A plinth is carried like a casket, the logs arranged to make a monument, or unlit pyre. The names we gave are read out; we sing that song of ours. When the candle is finally extinguished (how sad that, though it cannot last, it must be forced back into something lightless), it feels like closing a book at the final chapter, unread. The ceremony is too young – gone before its time. The coffee and tea in the foyer afterwards acts as an epilogue, providing an opportunity to linger a little longer, before reentering the world, leaving that hour behind, and going on, into the next.

Funeral, Zoo Southside, run ended