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Festival Review: Ndebele Funeral ****

Michael Cox reviews a production that 'wears its heart on its sleeve'.

Unlike much on the Fringe, Ndebele Funeral not only demands your attention but lingers in the mind far longer than expected. Smoke & Mirrors Collaborative have created a production that is lyrical, political, thought-provoking and wonderfully humane.

Set in South Africa, the play follows three characters: a government official, a gravely ill woman and a friend of hers from her student days. She has elected to live in a shack, refusing to use the government issued kits for repairs but instead building a coffin. The official wants to know what’s happened to the supplies and her friend wants to provide comfort and provisions, but what she wants is a dignified death on her terms.

It sounds morbid, but the production is as far from that as it can be. Mixing poetry, dance, music and heartfelt confessions from the characters, the play manages to speak loudly about a great deal of mature themes: past regrets, personal responsibility, faith and social order, to list but some.

Perhaps the scenes between the two friends in the first half run far longer than they should, but the second half moves at an excellent pace, with the final twenty minutes proving to be consistently gripping, reaching an ending that might be inevitable but is still touching to watch play out.

Wearing its heart on its sleeve, Ndebele Funeral is terrific theatre. It isn’t necessarily an easy watch, but it is a rewarding experience.

Ndebele Funeral is at Summerhall at 1300 until August 30, 2015 (not 11, 18, 25).

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