Theatre review: Burgerz, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

One day in April 2016, someone threw a burger at Travis Alabanza on Waterloo Bridge, shouting a transphobic insult.
Burgerz , Traverse (Venue 15)Burgerz , Traverse (Venue 15)
Burgerz , Traverse (Venue 15)

Burgerz, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh * * * *

The London crowds passed by and did nothing. For Alabanza, it was the beginning of an obsession with burgers. If they could break the burger down into its constituent parts, perhaps they could take back control over the incident.

Alabanza’s one-person show, directed by Sam Curtis Lindsay, is an attempt to cook the perfect burger on Soutra Gilmour’s clever wooden container-style set which opens out into a functioning kitchen. Alabanza recruits a member of the audience, a white cis-gender male, to assist in this process, and much hilarity results.

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Alabanza works the crowd like a seasoned cabaret performer, feeding off audience repartee and never missing a chance for an innuendo. Burgers become the central - occasionally laboured - metaphor for the show’s message: a burger is not a hot-dog, once made they can’t be changed. But is it right that everything is split into two arbitrary categories?

As the theatre starts to smell of cooking meat, the anger heats up as well. Anger that the business of working out who you are has to happen in the shadow of constant antagonism. Anger that our culture does not value transgender people in the way some cultures have in the past. Anger at this show having to be made in the first place.

The unique style won’t appeal to everyone, but the late-night crowd at the Traverse hung on Alabanza’s every word. While much of the script feels like little more than banter, there are sections which are fiercely articulate and perceptive. “It’s all about order, compliance,” they say. “To be unregulated is dangerous.” Alabanza makes a personal, impassioned case for more tolerance for those who refuse to be boxed in.

Until 25 August