A breakthrough for queer theatre this year is undoubtedly documentary theatre. Theatre as catharsis for experiences encountered by the LGBT+ community feels vital and compelling. A seminal work in the category is BURGERZ.
BURGERZ is by theatremaker Travis Alabanza (she/they) who recalls a transphobic attack while walking across London’s Waterloo Bridge when a person threw a burger at them and shouted a transphobic slur. Out of the nearly 100 witnesses to the attack, not one person intervened.
Since then, Alabanza has become one of the UK’s most well-known transgender activists, boasting over 50,000 followers on social media platforms.
After the incident, Alabanza became “obsessed with burgers. How they’re made, how they feel, and sell. How they travel through the air. How the mayonnaise feels on your skin.”
The show explores “how trans bodies survive and how, by them reclaiming an act of violence, we can address our own complicity.”
Blending humour, heartbreak and ground beef, BURGERZ is a powerful and unsettling reflection.
Travis invites a cis-gendered white male on stage to help her make a burger from scratch in their beautifully designed set.
Alabanza said they wanted they set to be very “1950s domesticated housewife” and collaborated with Soutra Gilmour to see this vision through.
We are assured in the after-show talk that this person is never a plant with Travis saying it would never work with a plant.
From that moment on, the energy in the room notably shifts from spectatorship to self-reflection.
One thing that was cleverly irking about the audience participation was to witness the almost instant empathy, sympathy and gratification given to the cis-gendered white male on stage by the audience. “I cried two days ago” is met with “Awww”, him sitting down in a bouncy way is met with loud laughter, a look, a sigh; it feels like Travis has turned the stage inside out and we are now unwittingly the performers.
Appeasing the patriarchy and its privilege has always been a performance, and Alabanza’s interplay with the fourth wall makes our efforts to please stick out like a sore thumb.
As we listen to Travis’ experiences, it becomes clear that the centre of this show is highlighting how complicit people can be in their inaction to violence.
The challenge to complacency builds throughout the whole performance creating an ending which is one of the most intense few moments of theatre I have witnessed.
BURGERZ is essential viewing for everyone. It is an exercise in your duty as a citizen, in being a true ally for trans and gender non-conforming folk.
Tickets for BURGERZ can be found here.
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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