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Interview: Bringing The Funeral To Camden Fringe

The Camden Fringe Interviews

Zofia Zerphy discusses How To Urn A Living

We do love a little play on words in a show title, so How To Earn A Living certainly made us smile. And that was enough to leave us dying to know more about this show set in a floundering funeral parlour.

So we were delighted that Berserk Theatre‘s Zofia Zerphy managed to find time between embalming sessions (ok we mean rehersals) to sit down and chat, and tell us why death really can be a laughing matter.

Great to chat, so who are you and what’s your part in bringing the show to Camden this summer?

I am Zofia Zerphy. I am the co-founder and producer of Berserk Theatre, I wrote How to Urn a Living, and I play Wisteria- so I wear a lot of hats!

The title is a great play on words, what more can you tell us about it all then?

How to Urn a Living is a farcical funeral comedy for anyone who knows someone who’s died, someone who will die, or someone who might one day die themselves! Be prepared to laugh at your mortality and question your morality. This play is very much in the style of The Addams Family, Little Shop of Horrors, and Fawlty Towers, so if you’re a fan of campy stories with big characters, this is for you.

We’re sold, where will we find you for Camden Fringe then?

We will be at The Hen and Chickens Theatre between 29 July and 1 August. This is a fabulous little theatre right off the Highbury and Islington tube stop, known for welcoming a diverse selection of new writing and comedy theatre. We at Berserk Theatre can be known to go off “vibes”, and we just felt right at home when we walked in the door. Everyone at The Hen and Chickens Theatre is welcoming and kind, and they really want to uplift and support performers, something we value a lot as recent graduates coming into the industry.

Are there any plans for what comes next after August – for you or the show?

Yes! We are excited to say that we will be performing How to Urn a Living at two more festivals this fall in London. Catch us at the Old Red Lion Theatre at GrimFest from 7 – 10 October, and at The Voila Festival at The Space on 5, 6 and 10 November. Follow us on TikTok or Instagram to watch what happens after that!

What was the inspiration behind the show?

Death is the most consistent part of human existence – everyone dies. However, I feel that this topic is still somewhat taboo, and that the various ways people experience and deal with grief is not talked about. I’ve dealt with the death of a member of my family, and I realized that grief includes a wide spectrum of emotion, and I knew at some point I wanted to artistically explore this idea. With this play I was able to explore the way tradition, religion, morality, and pressures from societal norms play into the way people process death. So that’s how I found the core of How to Urn a Living.

Now the other part is the comedy. I’ve always been a lover of spooky cult classics like Beetlejuice, Little Shop of Horrors, and Clue, so I wanted to write my play in that style. What ended up happening is that the comedy enhanced the dark topic, and allowed me to explore the topics I wanted to in a comedic way.

What is it you hope audiences think after watching the show?

Most stories about death are driven by sadness and show the anger of people that are left behind by death, but in the world of Fowler’s Funeral, death is warm and fuzzy, not clinical and cold. I hope that this piece can make people laugh about something traditionally thought of as depressing. I hope they let the humor and comedy of the show guide them towards reflecting on the complexity of death and grief, because death consists of more things than just sadness, and although death is the only thing you can be certain about in life, it might not be the most important.

Finally, will we be finding you in the bar after each performance?

The Hens and Chickens bar is so ridiculously cute and has the kindest people working there, so we will definitely be stopping by after our show, and I’d love it if people stuck around to chat. I always love to hear what people liked, what they didn’t like, what they wish they saw more of, and anything else they want to tell me really! We also want to support lots of other theatre that’s on during the Camden Fringe, and word of mouth is the best way to do that. So if you have a show you think we’d love, please don’t hesitate to tell us.

How To Urn A Living plays at Hen and Chickens Theatre for Camden Fringe from 29 July to 1 August. Further information and tickets available here.

The show also plays for one night at Kingston’s Rose Theatre as part of Fuse Festival on 6 July, further information here.

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