Dublin Theatre Festival
At first glance, the setting of Burgerz can seem quite odd: a huge, closed wooden box with the title of the play written on it is in the middle of the stage. From the box proudly comes out Travis Abalanza, who starts introducing themselves to the public. They wear overalls, then undress to reveal a vibrant green dress and put on purple heels, complaining from the lack of reaction of the public that is used to this in the RuPaul era.
While putting a kitchen in the middle of the set, they quickly reveal the painful memory that inspired the creation of this very show: some years ago in London, someone threw a burger at them, insulting them in broad daylight, on a crowded bridge. Nobody did anything to help them.
Throughout Burgerz, Travis Alabanza recreates this experience of violence with the audience, showing that being passive can sometimes be the most violent choice one can do. Burgerz constantly makes the audience question their behaviour and their conception of gender among other societal codes.
The questioning of these norms take the shape of a recipe: how to cook a burger. Travis asks the audience if someone is willing to help them cook a burger, and after some shy hands raise themselves, they specify that they need a cisgender, white male. Travis finally chooses someone and the recipe begins.
Each step from the recipe cleverly unfolds as a metaphor. From the beginning, when we are asked if we prefer burgers or hot dogs, it becomes clear that Travis is actually talking about gender. When the man who helps Travis starts to cut onions, he is asked about the last time he cried, about, his relationship to feelings, and his experience of masculinity.
Burgerz is a journey through all sorts of emotions, from laughter (Travis Alabanza seems to have a natural gift for comedy), to frustration and tears. The emotional climax is reached when Travis wants to fully recreate their experience, and asks someone to throw a burger at them. This night, the woman they picked to do it refuses, her voice breaking, and Travis throws the burger themselves when the lights turn off.
Despite its vibrant colours and pop packaging, Burgerz tackles darker themes and is a deeply immersive emotional experience. I could not stress enough the importance of performances like this one and of artists like Travis Alabanza who establish themselves as an essential voice to understand and question today’s world.