News Story

“When you’re arranging a funeral, for me, it’s no dress rehearsal.”

As a national theatre company, we talk about how we can act as a mirror and a microscope for our collective understanding. To spark conversations or shift change in some way. The compassionate work being done by a whole host of organisations, grief activists and end of life workers is extraordinary. Compelled by this area of social change, we reached out to some of the people doing this hands-on work, shifting the way we think about grief and dying.

The mighty Maureen Blades is part of the collective bringing Gavin Porter’s show Circle of Fifths to life. For the past six years, she’s also worked with bereaved families as a Funeral Arranger. If anyone knows the importance of opening up conversations about death and end of life, it’s Maureen.

“My name is Maureen. I’m 53 years old, and I work as a Funeral Arranger."

I’ve been doing this job for the last six years. When you’re arranging a funeral, for me, it’s no dress rehearsal. You only get one chance at this. It’s important to get it right for the families, which means having very good listening skills and making sure whatever wishes they want are actually carried out. As I say, it’s no dress rehearsal. You’ve got to get it right on the day.

Conversations around death are changing to some extent.

And yet you speak to some people that have said, they’ve tried to speak to mum or dad – or whoever it may be – about what they want for their funeral and they’re not interested. Or the mum or the dad wants to speak to the children about what they would like, and they find that difficult. There’s still an element of where people, are fearful, for whatever reason about talking about death.

I think this show is a step in the right direction because this isn’t something that we talk about.

We’re going to be doing this now, we’re going to be talking about this and doing this for the next six weeks. So it’s a starting point, not just amongst the cast, but anybody that is involved behind the scenes in the production of things, and for those that attend the show as well, in whatever way that may be. And whatever the sort of stuff talking about death is to each individual.

Death comes to everybody.

My mother used to say we’re all in the queue, but we don’t know how far up the queue we are. And that’s true.”