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.