Bereavement as a topic of a play is always challenging and Sarah Kosar’s surreal take on this perhaps most profound experience in everyone’s life is only a partial success. Mumburger tries to distance the pain that comes with losing someone we love through psychedelic visions, wackiness and poetry recitals. I found myself unable to connect with Kosar’s characters and felt confused by overcomplicated narrative strategies used by Tommo Fowler who directed the show.
We meet Dad and Daughter in a grey austere living room as they come to terms with losing their wife and mother. Dad is disoriented and Daughter is frenetic, she wants to do everything and do it now and he wants to sleep. A series of conversations ensues showing that they experience bereavement in different ways. In a somewhat supernatural twist they get closer when a bag of burgers arrives on their doorstep. They are vegan, burgers are made of mum (hence the title of the play), and most probably sent by her as a beyond-the-grave prank. Dad and Daughter are not surprised: mum was capable of the most outrageous jokes and a bit of an oddball. Daughter almost immediately is transfixed by her mum’s last wish, namely devouring her body as a form of closeness and ‘digestive memorial’.
From then on the conversations become a competition for the best way to remember mum. There is bickering and a sense of the mundane (choosing coffins and phoning relatives), but no profound engagement with grief. There are lots of words said in the play that mean little or provide a distraction. There also seems to be some needless repetition like in the lip-syncing scenes with Dad who keeps watching The Father of the Bride. In the end it is more of a coming of age play than a story about grief. In the process of arranging the funeral Daughter also plans her own independent life with her partner, Bea.
There is some understated, subtle acting by Andrew Frame as Dad. Rosie Wyatt is a very energetic, infuriating Tiffany but she slightly overacts. There is some familial onstage chemistry but the Spartan, unimaginative design lets actors down and makes the overall staging not very believable and pedestrian.