EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: BURGERZ, Traverse Treatre
In 2016, someone threw a burger at performance artist Travis Alabanza in broad daylight and shouted a transphobic slur. No one stepped in.
Alabanza became obsessed with the burger: how it's made, how it smells, how it flies through the air. Bringing a cis, white male member of the audience on stage to help them, Alabanza makes a burger from scratch, reclaiming the act of violence against them and asking the audience at every junction, what are you doing to help? What more should you be doing to help?
The set, designed by Soutra Gilmour, is a large wooden crate, which opens up to reveal many cardboard boxes emblazoned with pink packing tape. Throughout the show cooking equipment, ingredients and even Alabanza emerge from these boxes.
It's an obvious but effective metaphor for the boxes we're put in at birth, which no longer fit as we grow and may not have even been the right box to start with. Maybe we shouldn't be boxed in at all. Alabanza presents these issues with a deserved anger behind them, worried that in choosing a box before the burger is created, it just won't fit. But the recipe must be followed.
Alabanza is a quick-witted improviser who moves easily between their script and bantering with the chosen audience member. The show is funny, despite its painful roots, and as unpredictable as audience interaction may be, it's clear Alabanza has the formula down, skilfully leading the audience to the emotional place they need to be. This is a show that makes you angry, makes you sad, makes you laugh and, more than anything else, makes you stand up and do something.
Photo credit: Lara Cappeli