Power Plays are a series of site-specific works by an activist theatre group who have set out to highlight gender inequality in theatre, and have commissioned these 4 new works, written and created by women, for Fringe this year. I saw one of these plays, the extraordinary ‘Funeral Flowers’ written and performed by Emma Dennis-Edwards, as a young aspiring florist Angelique, who is trapped within the foster care system. The performance takes place in a flat and the 10 of us in attendance are welcomed into the kitchen by Angelique, where she invites us to choose a flower from the beautiful selection which fill the room, and take a seat to hear her story. It is an incredible, heart breaking and frighteningly real story. Her mother is in prison – again – she is living with her carer Sam, and when she isn’t at college immersed in her love of flowers and floristry, she is spending time with a drug dealing man named Micky and his dangerous, violent acquaintance Rampage. There is some positivity at the start of this piece; she enjoys college, has a great tutor and gets on well with Sam, and we are relaxed in her presence as she potters around the kitchen spraying the bouquets and filling us in on the significance of lilies and roses. We get the impression Micky is not a good person, but it’s only when we accompany Angelique out of the kitchen and into the space next door, disco lights spinning and music playing, that we begin to understand the real danger that she is in. We’re at a party at Micky’s house. There is alcohol and drugs, and she ends up in a bedroom with him. What happens in that room is so horrendous, so cruel and violent, that she will never be the same again. It is utterly shocking and so incredibly played out by Emma, it was impossible not to be overcome by emotion.
“An incredible, heart breaking and frighteningly real story”
She goes home, and at the end of the corridor, Sam is at the end of her tether worrying about where she has been. I can’t have been the only one in the room wanting to scream out for Angelique to tell her, that she was brutally attacked by not only Micky, but by Rampage too. She doesn’t, and we hear how dirty and stained she feels, before following her into a bedroom, where she hides out for a number of days, unable to face her friends at college after a video of the events from the party has been circulated. There is a glimmer of hope later on in the piece. The final room we accompany her to is her bedsit. She has moved out of Sam’s house, things have soured since that awful night, and Angelique takes so much of it out on her. She does manage to apologise, but moves on to an assisted living space, where we see Micky make one final appearance. Lifted by her mother coming out of prison, finding her own safe space, and getting back to her love of working with flowers, she finds the strength to stand up to him, and focuses instead on her own future, a future we desperately hope is the positive one we want for her. Emma is an incredible actor and this is a truly important and vital piece of work. It leaves one heart broken for all the young women who are in the same position as Angelique and hoping so desperately that they will be able to find a way out, to ‘dream big’, as she does, and get the escape that they need. I hope this piece tours after the Fringe as it deserves to be seen by many, many people. Funeral Flowers will be performed 12th-13th, 15th-20th and 22nd-25th at Pleasance Pop-Up: Power Play HQ, tickets can be purchased here.