Mumburger Review

Old Red Lion Theatre 27 June – 22 July.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

You leave some plays with a warm and fuzzy feeling, well Mumburger certainly isn’t one of them; instead you will probably leave feeling uncomfortable and questions flying around inside your head, but thoroughly entertained.

Mum has died, in a crash with a Birdseye lorry on the M25, and Tiffany is trying to sort out funeral plans. Unfortunately, her dad is almost catatonic with grief, and shows no interest in her spreadsheets and to do lists. Any plans are set aside however, when a surprise delivery arrives. Mum had already made arrangements, deciding on a digestive memorial, and Tiffany and dad are faced with the consequences – a greasy bag of mumburgers. This surreal plot twist lifts an already engaging play into the realms of theatrical brilliance, as the audience’s senses are battered with images, sounds and smells that leaves you as stunned as the characters.

The complicated relationship between Tiffany and her dad – trying, and wondering if it’s worth it, to reconnect after years of indifference – is portrayed to great effect by Andrew Frame and Rosie Wyatt. Both actors are totally convincing in their grief. Both characters are in turn annoying, frustrating, pitiful and funny, and the pauses and glances say as much as their words, thanks to the talented cast. Sarah Kosar’s script is sharp and witty, asking lots of awkward questions that have no black or white answers, only shades of grey. The character of mum hangs over the play, and as we hear more about her, it’s obvious why the two can’t really cope – she was the boss, running a vegan household, yet making them eat roadkill and dead pets. Springing the surprise of her burger delivery doesn’t seem out of character, but whether this was an act of love or a power play is up for debate.

As Tiffany and dad struggle with whether to fulfil her last wishes, Kosar lets rip with fantastic spoken word passages from Tiffany, accompanied by disorienting clips of rollercoasters and accidents, as dad tries to become the father Tiffany needs by watching Father of the Bride.

And then they begin to cook. As the actors gasp and gag as they blowtorch the burgers, the audience reaction is audible. There were groans, moans, and a lot of sniffing. My goodness, mum smelled good… Even though you know it’s not real, when they eat the burgers, it is excruciating – again down to the brilliant writing and performances. But just as it gets too much, there’s a killer line that draws laughs of relief – my favourite being “She was 5’9’’ – there must be more left!”

Mumburger is a wonderful cringemaking study of grief, family obligations and social taboos, and is also damn funny. You’ll never have seen anything like this before – grab a ticket while you can.

The View From Nowhere Review

Park Theatre, 27 June – 22 July.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Chuck Anderson’s new play has a very important message about the presence of industrial chemicals in the environment, and the battle between corporations and scientists over whether the levels in the environment are high enough to damage humans. Unfortunately, the message gets lost in a cliched David versus Goliath story that we’ve all seen before.

Alchemex, makers of the world’s leading weed killer, offer scientist P.G. Washington a research grant to continue his work on the effects of a chemical in the weed killer on the hormones of frogs. When his results become awkward for the company, he refuses to back down, instead publicising the risks of the weed killer. This leads to the company’s PR machine launching a campaign to discredit Prez and his work to protect their interests.

The main problem are the scientists – Prez is just too easy a target for Alchemex. Dreadlocked, dressed like a children’s entertainer, brought up on a sink estate, an egotistical anti-establishment showman, he has all the “interesting” traits a flawed hero has in a Hollywood movie. And is just as annoying – remember Patch Adams? If Prez had been a dull, quiet scientist, this could have been a much more interesting play with less obvious plot points. Mensah Bediako does a great job trying to give the character a little humanity, there are some cracking one-liners, but Prez is not a fully rounded character. The adoration of his research assistant Sandy (Emma Mulkern) is laid on with a trowel – again, it’s nothing to do with the acting, Mulkern gives a splendid performance as the socially inept student with attachment issues – the audience is drip fed her past, and so are given a reason for her adoration of Prez; and needy, lost people clinging on to the feeling of family by revering an unsuitable father figure is a real danger, but it all gets a little melodramatic and overblown. The voice of Alchemex is Rona (Nina Toussaint-White), loyal to the company and willing to stoop to any level to protect the brand. Toussaint-White has a tough job, as Rona is a complete blank, only showing the slightest hint of emotion. Math Sams as Pennington has the most interesting character arc – a scientist, but a complicit company man, whose disillusionment and disgust at what is going on finally leads to him growing a spine.

Chuck Anderson certainly knows his facts, but The View From Nowhere struggles to engage emotionally. The story begins interestingly, but then lurches sharply into TV movie of the week territory. The cast, at times, seem to be concentrating so much on the technical jargon that they forget characters’ names, although I am sure that this will improve during the run. Even the supposedly dramatic climax is puzzling and feels rushed – it just doesn’t ring true. The framing of the play as Prez’s lectures works well though, as does the set design, with projections of cells and formulae on the floor.

The View From Nowhere is a well-intentioned, but flawed attempt at highlighting a serious issue – like the hermaphrodite frogs in the experiments, this play doesn’t seem to have a definite identity and the message gets bogged down in a weekly sketched character study.

House of America Review

Jack Studio Theatre 27 June – 15 July.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

In the land of our fathers, it’s the buried sins of our mothers that destroy our dreams. Wales in the 1980s wasn’t the most optimistic of places, with the death throes of the mining industry and rising unemployment leaving many families and communities in desperate trouble. Sid, Boyo and Gwenny live with their mother in a forgotten town, where the only hope of employment is labouring at the new open cast mine. As the cast creeps nearer to their house, the family refuse to leave, and mam’s eccentricities become increasingly worrying. Told by mam that their father left and went to America when they were young, Sid and Gwenny become obsessed with leaving, and build an idyllic vision of what life in America would be like. Their discovery of Kerouac’s Life on the Road leads them down a nauseating spiral of escapism and fantasy that ends in tragedy. As Sid and Gwenny play at being Jack and Joyce, quoting lines and acting out parts of the book, Boyo can only watch in disbelief and rising horror as he sees his fragile sister disappearing before his eyes. Meanwhile mam’s episodes become more sinister, with talk of blood on the walls, as buried secrets are unearthed.

All very cheerful, but there is a huge amount of dark humour and laugh out loud punchlines in Ed Thomas’s often poetic script. There are moments of wonderful absurdist humour – most memorable being mam in Welsh bonnet eating a bowl of imaginary cawl – gentle riffing philosophy, and shocking violence. Just like a night in the rugby club really. There is a more positive global image of Wales nowadays, but the scars of mining are still deep, and the story is as relevant today as it was in the 80s as austerity bites and communities face financial uncertainty.

The Welsh cast (so no dodgy accents here) are completely believable as this tight knit family. You wouldn’t want to live next door to them, but the cast manage to keep the characters sympathetic even when they are carrying out unconscionable acts. Pete Grimwood and Evelyn Campbell are devastating as Sid and Gwenny, and Robert Durbin will break your heart as Boyo, as his strength gradually crumbles as he realises what has been going on. Lowri Lewis as mam is fantastic – in turns pathetic, defiant, sweet and impish – and convinces as the matriarch determined to keep her family together at home at any cost.

The set is dark and grim, with clever lighting design isolating characters without the need for long scene changes and ramping up the feeling of claustrophobia as the play progresses. My only gripe is the delicacy of the sound effects. An open cast is LOUD. Maybe if the blast siren and explosions were at a more realistic level, the claustrophobia and fragility of the house and family would be even more palpable?

An assured, thought provoking and compelling production, House of America is well worth a look.

Musicals Pub Quiz (Fundraiser For Wheelchair Access)

Musicals Pub Quiz (Fundraiser For Wheelchair Access)

Majestic Theatre – Darlington

14 July at 18:30–22:30

Calling all theatre buffs! Think you know your Travoltas from your Newton-Johns? Your Jean Valjean from your Javert? Get yourself down to The Majestic Theatre on Friday 14th of July and show us just how much you know about musicals!

After the success of our Disney Pub Quiz, The Majestic Theatre Darlington is proud to be hosting another fun filled pub quiz to raise funds for wheelchair access to the building.

Be ready to get those brains working to prove you’re the team with the most extensive musicals knowledge and be in with a chance of winning free tickets to shows and a £30 bar tab!

Tickets cost just £2 per person, with a maximum of 6 members per team. There will be a raffle and prizes to be won for best team name too! All profits raised from the quiz will go towards making our amazing theatre wheelchair accessible.

There are a limited number of tickets for this event and will sell out quick, so get your tickets while you can! The bar will be open from 6.30pm and Quiz starting at 8pm. Looking forward to seeing you at The Majestic for a night of cocktails, quizzing and musicals!

Buy tickets on line at