Burgerz

Theatre, Experimental
3 out of 5 stars
Burgerz, Hackney Showroom
© Holly Revel

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Travis Alabanza’s solo show is a heartfelt performance art dissection of a transphobic attack

This review is from London, 2018

Last week, the GRA public consultation on rights for trans people sent an already-heated debate into highly visible overdrive. What hasn’t been as visible is the emotional toll on trans people who’ve spent months watching their existence being debated, on top of dealing with harassment both online and in the streets. Performance artist Travis Alabanza’s solo show ‘Burgerz’ is an exploration of this trauma, focusing in on a single moment of violence in intricate, visual style.

Hackney Showroom’s huge stage is taken up with Soutra Gilmour’s set, with a box that looks a bit like a gigantic burger van. It slides apart to reveal a kitchen countertop where most of the performance plays out. In this pastelly arena, Travis niggles away at a single incident: a burger was hurled at their head on Waterloo Bridge, and hundreds of passers by did nothing. So they try to gain a sense of control over that moment by recreating the burger on stage, with the help of a white, cis, male volunteer from the audience. 

As they mince meat and chop veg, Travis asks the volunteer a series of carefully prepared questions, – when was the last time he cried? does he feel unsafe on the streets? – getting audience chuckles with plenty of ready punchlines. It's an interaction that's insightful for the way it shows the complex dance of gratitude and resentment that comes with interacting with and relying on a privileged ally. But it also feels a bit too staged to be really revealing: Travis keeps things moving on, rather than teasing apart their findings.

'Burgerz' feels as though it comes from a place of frustration and anger – rightly, because no one should have to suffer the kind of violence that Travis has experienced. But it feels weird to target that frustration at an audience that's primarily made up of queer people and straight allies who care enough to buy a ticket. The performance is most powerful not when it's making blunt analogies between gender binaries and burgers and hotdogs, but when it looks outside the starkly lit realities of Travis’s kitchen, and softens into dream-like monologues where they draw on non-Western cultures to imagine a different, better world. 

By: Alice Saville

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