Comment: The Funeral to End All Funerals

by Lynn on December 3, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre, Waterloo, Ont. Plays until Dec. 3.

Written by Steven Ellott Jackson

Directed by Todd Davies

Lighting by Noah Snow

Sound by Thomas Humpries

Cast: Andre Furlong

Zivy Hardy

Inese Hill

Ashley King

Lia Mendonca

Katherine Schill

Jackie Wray

This is a “comment” and not a review because the show has closed after a short run.

Playwright Steven Elliott Jackson is fascinated with creating plays about real people in imagined situations. In The Seat Next to the King he wrote about a chance encounter in a men’s washroom between Bayard Rustin (a close friend of Martin Luther King) and Walter Jenkins (a top aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson). In The Garden of Alla he wrote about noted actress, Alla Nazimova.

In his latest play The Funeral to End All Funerals Steven Elliott Jackson tackles the formidable, literary Mitford siblings: Tom, Unity, Nancy, Pamela, Jessica, Diana and Deborah. All were writers in varying degrees of ability and fame. They came into their own from the 1930s into this century.  Politics factored highly to some. Some had questionable ‘friends’—Unity was close to Adolph Hitler and thought his ideas were swell. Another sibling was a Fascist. Nancy was probably the most notable of the Mitford siblings with her many books and references to her by other literary titans of the time.

The siblings arrive at a funeral home for a funeral. A shiny casket with a rose on top commands the space. Each sibling signs the guest book and greets his/her sibling, usually with disdain, contempt, etc. They generally didn’t like each other. Past hurts and insults are revived.

I found Steven Elliott Jackson’s play fascinating, not just because the Mitfords were so interesting, but also because of the way Jackson handled the information about each of them. One sibling chides Unity because she is the close friend “of the greatest murder in history.” Steven Elliott Jackson just leaves that fact there, unexplained until Act II when we learn that man was Adolph Hitler. There is reference to some trouble in Tom’s life in Act I and again it’s fleshed out in Act II that he was gay and that was something that was not discussed.

I thought Steven Elliott Jackson’s subtle handling of the information was refreshing. The siblings knew the background of the information mentioned, while the audience might not (if they weren’t familiar with the Mitfords), but Jackson wasn’t going to let the audience flounder with lack of information. He deftly referenced what happened in Act I and fleshed it out in Act II.  The title is a play on words and Steven Elliott Jackson’s words are dandy.

Director Todd Davies maneuvered the cast around the set with ease. Relationships and reactions were firmly established. And while the acting varied in accomplishment the cast was committed to the work.

Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre presents:

Played until Dec. 3, 2023.

Running time: 90 minutes (1 intermission)

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