Packed with layers of symbolism which stick with you beyond the performance, Burgerz brilliantly strikes the balance between comedy and drama. Based on the experience of artist Travis Alabanza as a trans and gender non-conforming person, the performance is inspired by a transphobic encounter in 2016 in which a burger was thrown at Alabanza. From that moment onwards, they became fascinated with burgers, and the show is formatted around their various elements and their construction, thereby reclaiming the object of violence and producing a powerfully touching, intimate and educational performance.
Much like the nature of its content, the performance breaks from a conventional format, with dramatic and scripted speeches alongside light-hearted humour and witty responses to audience participation. A sensory experience, this performance is enhanced by the dexterous stage design and lighting, the use of real meat and steam in cooking and most importantly, the inclusion of the audience. Alabanza frequently breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly throughout the show, forcing them to question their assumptions.
Indeed, Alabanza invites to the stage a white man from the audience to aid them in the making of the burger, and together they inspect each part of the cooking process, using the steps and ingredients as analogies for the harmful social norms and constructs that surround ideas of gender. The encounter between the two takes up a substantial proportion of the play, producing raw, real, touching and at times uncomfortable conversation.
Unapologetic in their performance, Alabanza talks and moves with such ease across the stage – moments of anger and vulnerability igniting a much-needed conversation in today’s world. Burgerz takes a topic that is often rendered inaccessible through fear and ignorance and makes it approachable, dealing with Alabanza’s abusive treatment so eloquently yet powerfully that the show becomes less about a singular trans person’s experience and more about the experience of human emotion. This performance ultimately makes the point that we are all active in our complacency and that it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to effect change.
Traverse Theatre – Traverse 2
Runs until 25 August (excluding 12 and 19)
Buy tickets here
Image: Lara Cappelli