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Niamh Denyer: Get Blessed! – Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose

Áine Reilly (Niamh Denyer) – pronounced ‘Ahn-yer’ – is a funeral celebrant who runs training courses for other would-be celebrants, which members of the audience assume the roles of. The delegates are given an amusing but nonetheless comprehensive overview of the funeral business and how to succeed in it: her courses, she says, aren’t accredited by an external body, which (ironically) makes them stand out amongst the apparent plethora of other funeral celebrant courses out there, which conform to common standards. There’s a knowing proverbial wink from Reilly, and reading between the lines, the audience knows intuitively that the relevant external body refused to accredit the course, but no matter: her results, experience and success speak for themselves.

There are a range of courses available – she runs twenty – this one takes a satirical take on presiding over the funeral of someone you may well know nothing about. She has ways of asking the ‘right’ questions and taking the answers given, and rewording and rephrasing them when putting together a eulogy. To take an example not used in the show (I wasn’t asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but let’s not give everything away in any case), someone who died after ‘tombstoning’ went wrong might be described by a family member as reckless, but in the eulogy, the celebrant might say the deceased had a life filled with excitement and adventure, and passed away doing something they loved.

There was some audience participation – no, nobody is asked to get up and read a weasel word-ridden eulogy: Reilly keeps that task for herself, thank you very much – which some in the audience got into more than others (I was nonchalant, my efforts rightly lampooned, though someone in the front row at the performance/course I attended asked for extra time). Although presented in a way that befits a comedy show, there were kernels of truth in what Reilly was teaching – such as the need for self-care and having strategies to cope with the emotional toll of performing multiple funerals in any given week. It’s distinctive, different and delightful.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Put the fun back into funeral! For her debut Edinburgh Fringe solo show, award-winning writer-performer Niamh Denyer is funeral celebrant Áine Reilly in a hilarious, interactive hour that addresses modern spiritual ideas, capitalism, gurus and hustle culture.

Niamh Denyer: Get Blessed!
Patter Hoose @ Gilded Balloon (Coorie)
2 – 27 August 2023

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