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BURGERZ at Hackney Showroom | Review

Burgerz
Travis Alabanza – Burgerz

The Hackney Showroom is the perfect setting for BURGERZ the first full-length theatre show written and performed by Travis Alabanza – trans performer and activist.

The performance space is inclusive, offers gender-neutral toilet facilities and provides a home for art and debate. The venue showcases performance and art from underrepresented groups from society; a safe space everyone; TRANS, CIS gendered and everything in between.

The piece runs at about an hour and is a deep dive into queer and transphobic public harassment and the long-term effects for the harassed/abused.

As we enter the performance space we are confronted with a large container, box if you like, white noise is playing in the background, Travis emerges from the box dressed in a blue boiler suit and begins to unpack the boxes, build the stage in front of us. Unpacking, coming out, unboxing. To be honest, the first 10 minutes are quite slow and I did fear that this may be a pretentious art piece lacking any substance. HOW WRONG WAS I?

What followed was a rollercoaster of emotions delivered to us by the superb performer that is Travis Alabanza. They are amazing, they hit the tone perfectly and they were able to go deep into my soul and bring out emotions that haven’t been visited in a long time. By the end of the show, every member of the audience was on their feet cheering for Alabanza and if the rest of the audience was like me, I’m sure they wanted to go and hug Alabanza too.

The format is quite simple, Alabanza uses a cookery show as its base – think MasterChef for the burger lover! They invite an audience member to join them on stage – this must be a CIS gendered white male. The volunteer is treated with respect and love and power throughout. Alabanza relies heavily on this volunteer to guide them through the cookery process, pointing them in the right direction, telling them how a burger should be made and reassuring Alabanza of the right way to do things. After all, doesn’t the white CIS gendered male rule this western world? By doing this Alabanza is able to question why we accept and believe certain things – instructions, authority, subjectivity. In the worlds of Alabanza, “which came first the burger or the box? what if the burger doesn’t’ fit the box?

Interspersed into the cookery segment is a metaphorical discussion on acceptance and conformity juxtaposed with Alabanza’s real-life experience of violence and hatred and the historical mapping of the non-binary in the eastern world.

The piece is laugh-out-loud funny, raw and edgy, it is powerful and empowering and deep, it’s deep and painful to watch.

I spent the last 10 minutes crying silently in my seat.

Marked as one of the UK’s most prominent queer artists, Alabanza has created a piece that makes the show about their audience. It’s as if a mirror is held up to those watching them on stage and says if you accept us in a dress on stage, why can’t you accept us in a dress on the street, on the bus, in your company.

This is queer theatre for a CIS-gendered audience. Maybe if you’re convicted of a hate crime you should be invited to watch a performance like this to really understand the deep routed damage you have caused to another human!

I left the theatre thinking, be kind, always be kind.

5 Star Rating

Review by Faye Stockley

Artist and performer Travis Alabanza’s first full-length theatre show explores the harassment of transgender and gender non-conforming people. After a burger was thrown at them on Waterloo Bridge in broad daylight, with no-one intervening, Alabanza became obsessed with burgers. This new theatre piece sees Alabanza reclaim the act as a way of making sense of the daily violence that happens to them and other trans bodies. Carving out a place for themselves as one of the UK’s prominent trans voices, Alabanza presents a theatre performance that is timely, unsettling and powerful, exploring the way a body can dodge objects and how trans lives are dissected in public.

Travis Alabanza is one of the prominent emerging queer artists in the UK, with recent shows including Scottee’s Putting Words in Your Mouth at the Roundhouse and Chris Goode’s Jubilee at the Royal Exchange Manchester and Lyric Hammersmith. In 2016/17 they became the youngest artist in residence at the Tate Modern & Britain and ran this year’s Tate Summer School, using art and the gallery to talk about gender, echoing the workshops they’ve run at the Roundhouse, Hackney Showroom and with Gender’ed Intelligence. In the last 12 months Alabanza has shown work at the V&A, the ICA, Transmission Gallery and Glasgow International Festival, as well as a regular at queer venues The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Duckie, The Glory and Her Upstairs. They headlined Trans Pride 2017, supported Mykki Blanco, went on tour with Alok Vaid-Menon hosted of this year’s Black Pride.

Company Information
Performed by Travis Alabanza Directed by Sam Curtis Lindsay
Set & Costume Design Soutra Gilmour Associate Designer Isabella Van Braeckel
Lighting Design Lee Curran & Lauren Woodhead Sound Design XANA
Movement Nando Messias

Listings information
23 Oct – 3 Nov Hackney Showroom, London
Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, E8 2BT
Mon – Sat, 7.30pm
www.hackneyshowroom.com | 020 3095 9747

14-17 Nov Royal Exchange, Manchester
St Ann’s Square, Manchester M2 7DH
7.30pm
www.royalexchange.co.uk | 0161 833 9833

18 Nov Hope Street theatre – as part of Homotopia festival
22 Hope Street, L1 9BY
www.homotopia.net/

Author

  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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