- Lorna Irvine
- 4 August 2019
This article is from 2019
Flipping brilliant meditation on othering and surviving
Somewhere between performance art, tone poem and cookery show, lies Burgerz. In 2016, when Travis Alabanza was attacked in a busy London street, catcalled and had a burger thrown at them, nobody intervened to check on their welfare. So in an act of resistance, redressing the balance and achieving some kind of catharsis, they created this wise and witty show.
Their trans identity and black ethnicity is, as Alabanza explains, double the fuel for abuse. They ruminate on the constant need for being moulded into something, quipping, 'as if trans wasn't the destination'. Burger boxes represent limitations and the shaping of a burger patty is akin to an unfinished body, something shaped and yet not quite ready.
Alabanza is a sweet, quick-witted presence throughout. Mischief twists at the corner of their mouth, as they ad-lib some ribald one-liners to the volunteer onstage assisting with cooking a burger. This is especially helpful when there are a couple of technical hiccups.
But it's not simply a pop culture literate show; history is woven into the fabric of the performance. They refer to the gods that were beyond gender two thousand years ago, like South Asian Hijra or Native American Two Spirit. Non-gendered bodies are not a recent phenomenon.
Burgerz is a beautiful, poignant piece, spiced with heady poetry. It's a stark reminder of how labels are unhelpful, and how far British society has to go to become more tolerant with those who refuse to be boxed-in.
Traverse Theatre, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), times vary, £21 (£15.50)