Impact interviews Aryana Ramkhalawon, who stars as Ayesha in the Nottingham Playhouse’s upcoming performance of The Funeral Director, which debuts tonight at 7.45pm. The play explores the experience of Ayesha and her role as a Muslim funeral director when asked to plan a memorial for a gay man.
What would you say is the main moral or message of the play? What do you want people to gain or take away?
Aryana: I think acceptance is at the core of it. My character has to come to accept herself. All humans are deserving of love and I feel very strongly that your faith and your sexuality shouldn’t be something you have to make a choice about – which limb to cut off, which life to live.
“Nobody should have to be discriminated.”
Is this an important subject matter to explore for you?
A: Researching the part made me so compassionate about those who this story affects. Nobody should have to be discriminated. No one should have to make a heartbreaking decision of having to give up the love of their family in order to truly love and accept themselves. The Naz and Matt foundation is an incredible foundation offering support for people who are facing these issues. His boyfriend committed suicide after coming out to his family. Reading stories and researching for the role has made me realise how important it is that we are telling this story.
What was the casting process like?
A: I remember reading the script and being like “damn I really want this role”. The writing is so witty and warm and full of heart.
How was the rehearsal process?
A: Intense. First of all, just looking into a funeral director’s life and coping with grief on a daily basis, contrasting with all the mundane paperwork and daily chores. Our director made sure we didn’t shy away from anything.
“Mental health and feeling you don’t fit in should be something we all talk about and open up about.”
Are there any personal experiences you feel you bring to this role?
A: Being Asian and growing up in a small town I can completely relate to Ayesha. I think she is so strong willed and her journey of realising she is deserving of happiness is something I feel everybody on a level has a tough time coming to accept. Mental health and feeling you don’t fit in should be something we all talk about and open up about.
In your opinion, how does this play resonate with current social issues?
A: I think Iman has written a beautiful piece that reminds us we are all human beings.
What is the most important aspect or issue explored by your character?
A: Can you be of faith and be gay! In America conversion camps are still a thing young people are put through. To live your life feeling you are wrong is something no one should have to face. But this is an issue happening today.
“But this is an issue happening today.”
Are there any issues faced by your character that you relate to yourself?
A: Really opening up, I feel growing up Asian you do feel different in some way. I feel racism is a part of life. The Islamophobia that her and her husband face is something that is always in the background. What it feels to be British. Are you truly accepted? To also feel like you would have to leave your family and give up any sense of community. This is a situation many young people face. Race, sexuality, gender. No one deserves to be discriminated against.
Catch the performances of this highly topical and hard-hitting play on 14th-16th March at Nottingham Playhouse. Tickets £11 for concessions. Tickets can be purchased here.
Featured images courtesy of Mihaela Bodlovic.