Review: Burgerz, Bristol Old Vic

Everyone must see Burgerz. 

From a theatrical point of view, it is not only bending or breaking the boundaries between media, but deconstructing them into non-existence. It’s an amalgamation of poetry, public speaking, stand-up, storytelling, live discussion and Saturday Kitchen Live. It is undefinable. And it echoes the content of the performance beautifully. 

However, it is not from a theatrical perspective that you must see this performance, but from a human one. 

Burgerz recounts Travis Alabanza’s experience of transphobic abuse, when a burger was thrown at them on Waterloo Bridge and a hundred people said nothing. Their consequent fixation upon burgers – a burgers’ recognisable image, how burgers are formed, boxed and loved – encompasses their necessity to discover meaning and repossess agency, by understanding this weapon of violence. Through retelling this event graphically and honestly, Burgerz nurtures empathy.

However, it is much more than a recounting. Alabanza does not only want to utilise their valid voice and to importantly have us listen. They want us, the audience, the cis-gender, white people to share the stage and to speak, and through this to force us onto the eggshells we so often swerve completely, to question our ideas and to place ourselves not only in the shoes of a victim but of a bystander or a perpetrator, in shoes we may one day find ourselves wearing. Through this Burgerz goes beyond nurturing empathy; it demands change. 

Due to the extreme incorporation of audience participation, no two performances will be the same. Alabanza’s ability to negotiate the unexpected, to humorously and emotively bounce off what is supplied to them, is exemplary. Using this form of performance grounds Burgerz in the present moment, giving it a sense of reality and immediacy. 

In reflection I will amend my initial statement and say everyone must experience Burgerz, because as an audience member you must open yourself up to more than just seeing what is before you, or a described moment in your minds eye, you must open yourselves up to interrogation, doubt and guilt and you will leave the theatre changed or at least reaffirmed. 

This is a performance about complicity and understanding, silence and discovering a voice, personal experience and universality, transphobia and burgers, and those that orchestrate their right to be unregulated. Although the audience, who have purchased tickets to hear Alabanza, are unlikely to utter a transphobic slur, it is important for everyone to be reminded that we are all a collective as humans.

Burgerz is playing Bristol Old Vic until 23 November before touring the UK. For more information and tickets visit the Bristol Old Vic website.