Mumburger (Old Red Lion Theatre)

Posted: July 1, 2017 in Theatre

⭐️⭐️

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com

Tragedy strikes far away and near. In their East London home, Hugh and Tiffany see television news channels leading with reports of many dead in a roller coaster accident in China, but it is the secondary story of a car crash on the M25 that grabs their attention, because the sole fatality was wife to one and mother to the other.

The personal and intimate nature of grieving is the subject of Sarah Kosar’s 80-minute one act play. It is about the need to cling on to a departed loved one, the need to absorb them so that they stay a part of those who mourn their loss. Father and daughter both grieve, but in different ways, Hugh watches Father of the Bride, his wife’s favourite film, while Tiffany recites touching elegies. Hugh wants time to rest and reflect, but his hyper-active daughter berates him for not having begun to make funeral arrangements within hours of the death.

Mum had been a campaigning vegan, bullying her family into observing her own lifestyle. Both crave to indulge their carnivorous instincts, but it comes as a shock to them when a bag of fast food arrives, with a note from Mum telling them that she has left them a “digestive memorial” in the form of burgers made from her own flesh. Should they eat them? Would ketchup, mustard or leftover vegan cheese make them tastier?

Kasar introduces absurdism, but, if there is comedy in her writing, Tommo Fowler’s sombre production rarely finds it and we are left with what could be described as a surreal lament. A greyish curtain hangs across the entire stage in Charlotte Henery’s set design, giving the feel of a tasteful funeral parlour, as no one seems to realise that, in theatre, black humour becomes death far better than respectful mourning. As a consolation, the cooking of burgers with a blow torch whets our appetites, provided we can overlook what they are supposed to be made of.

Rosie Wyatt’s Tiffany is bossy, confrontational and shrill, insisting that the burgers must be eaten even when she is choking on them. Andrew Frame’s morose, lethargic Hugh, walking around in a dressing gown for all but the final scene, has little chance of standing up to her. Neither character elicits sympathy for their loss, ensuring that a play that fails to make us laugh also hardly moves us.

Clearly Kosar is a promising writer, brave enough to challenge audiences to face up to unpalatable truths. However, on this occasion, her play proves to be as indigestible as the mumburgers in her story.

Performance date: 30 June 2017

Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

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