Review- The Funeral- Treasure Chest Theatre



We've had two enthusiastic reviewers willing to cover the same show. To say thank you for their generous contribution, we are publishing both articles on the same page. 

Happy reading!


By Harley Schumann

Four stars

Somehow everything is a little bit funnier when there is a corpse on the stage. This is one of the main lessons I learnt from this newly devised, dark, slightly absurdist, comedy from Hong Kong playwright Davina Cooke (produced by her company, Treasure Chest Theatre).

We start with a dead body lying on the ground. Then begins the funeral. Over an hour, we are introduced to a series of characters, each with a unique archetypal personality, and each adding their clues to the soap opera drama that led to this sorry state of affairs. Interspersed throughout the production are elements of dance and movement.


A sign on the wall before we enter the theatre explains that the play was developed in a short rehearsal period, with performers who have not worked together previously, using movement and improvisation through the Meisner Technique – all of which are usually warning bells to me that the performance I am about to see may lack focus and coherent narrative. But thankfully Davina Carrete's storytelling ability draws the production together in a way that provides structure for the necessarily fluid nature of the show.


The production is morbid in parts and explores (albeit quite lightly) some dark issues about the way we reflect on our relationships after experiencing death. In fact, in my research following the production I have learnt that the production was inspired by Davina Cooke dealing with the loss of her father this year. Perhaps then it is surprising that the show can still be described as a comedy. But at the end of the day, the show is light-hearted and fun, with genuine laugh out loud moments, and some well-placed absurdity thrown in for good measure (including an over the top Busby Berkeley style dance arrangement involving said corpse).


Each of the performers were capable and each had their strong moments where the audience could feel that they were really flowing with their character. This is admirable given the loosely improvisational nature of the show and the sometimes busy interactions between characters. But I think it is fair to say that each performer also had at least a moment or two where their flow struggled, perhaps as a result of the abridged preparation process. The exception perhaps being Namrata Bindra, who, as usual, gave a uniformly professional performance.


The costumes were simple: shirt and suspenders for the men, different colour dress for each of the women (the colours perhaps reflecting the archetypes of their personality but, if so, I couldn’t quite
decipher the code). There was also no set to speak of, except the red velvet-covered table which served as a kind of funeral bier for the corpse. But all this simplicity worked well in the circumstances, given the workshopped nature of the production.


The direction was a highlight. Plenty of movement and simple but effective lighting design brought the stark stage to life, without dragging the playout or trying too hard. In my opinion, this is the kind of local theatre that Hong Kong needs more of, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Treasure Chest Theatre come up with next.




By Dakota Duclo

Three stars


McAuley Studio at Hong Kong Arts Centre was hosting Davina Lee Carrete’s latest play The Funeral, and though it is certainly hilarious and enjoyable, the biggest take away is in noticing that this is a piece that could have been workshopped a few times before staging.

Jumping right in: the set, is no set. Excluding the bed of which lies our deceased character, we’re essentially dealing with open space and the addition of a few chairs. The lighting, though minimal, was useful and well cued, and it “worked” when it was needed to make changes to the scene’s settings. As for the music, well, an argument could be made that the play could have, or maybe even should have, been done without. There was however a fair bit of symbolism in this piece, so perhaps the music may have been necessary where these sequences were concerned. Rest assured, opinions in this regard will likely vary.

Circling back, and with regarding other factors such as the dialogue, story, and plot: it’s questionable as to whether the symbolism was even necessary. The dialogue was enough. It was well written, well delivered by the actors, and it was very noticeably scribed by an actor. The story was enough. It was simple, easy to follow, and inherently relatable. The arrangement of incidents was decently structured, but the symbolism felt out of place from the rest of it all. Simply put, this play seems to have difficulty in committing to one concept and then sticking to it, lacking a complete sense of identity. It can’t quite decide whether its realism, absurdism, farce, or naturalism- It is here where workshopping the piece would’ve come in handy, as it helps to solidify what sort of play it is one is trying to put on before it ever hits the stage.


This is very much an ensemble piece, no one actor really more important than the other. Consistency was not on the side of everyone, but the surprise stand-outs were that of Lauren Berning, Chloe Grimmet, and Natasha Jain. Lauren Berning’s character is left mostly to assumption, which can leave the audience guessing for themselves as it's not clearly defined what she’s actually doing there. This is a problem for the play; but if where her character fits in is the problem, she herself is definitely the solution. Every eye turned to her as she took the stage, and her presence commanded the laughs and attention of everyone in attendance. Her movement on stage was precise, and her motivations, though maybe not fully understood, were evident and she was clearly comfortable. The only issue with Chloe Grimmett is that we didn’t see her more.

From the moment she entered the world of the play to her final scene, she held her cards but then finished her hand by displaying a full house of emotion and vulnerability, if even only given such a short time to do it. Natasha established her relationship with everyone else immediately and with great effect the second she arrived. Her aura never faded from then on, further providing crisp reactions and subtle but hilarious one-liners. Honourable mention also goes out to the seasoned Namrata Bindra for her exceptional comedic timing, and with never failing to truly understand her character down to a tee. This is a skill that often goes unnoticed, but when the actor ‘knows’, the audience knows.

This play is not without faults, but it is the “freshness” of it that makes it such a fun watch. It was humorous, and awkward, though sometimes the awkwardness was unwarranted. It was well written but to an extent. Davina Lee Carrete has a knack for dialogue and an unquestionably creative mind. On the one hand, though, it’s a wonder if whether this was play was at all directed, or if the actors were mostly left to their own devices to see this through, with maybe just a hint of outside oversight.


This is something that has been known to happen as of recently, but IF that’s the case, it’s not something that is advisable. Yes, when actors were making their mark in the era of Elizabethan England, they did so without a director. It is, however, safe to say that directors were introduced into the theatre for a reason. That reason is not to dictate, but it is to guide as well as maintain structure. The structure is something a play like this cannot go without, and though at times it managed to work without it, it’s not something that should ever be left to chance.


This is merely an observation, and just as dismissible if said observation happens to be completely incorrect. The bottom line is that there is indeed something here. As relatable and funny as this play is, it would be a shame not to catch it before the run closes.


This production has now closed.

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