Tiffany’s mum just died. Hugh’s wife just died. Together, this father and grown daughter that barely know each other anymore need to arrange a funeral. In the midst of their nonfunctional, chalk and cheese miscommunications, a mysterious delivery of uncooked burger patties arrives on the doorstep of their vegan home. The note on the bag makes them question everything they know about grief, each other and dietary choices.
Sarah Kosar’s Mumburger frames grief within an impossibly absurd scenario but rather than exploiting the potential for comedy, Kosar uses it to bring Tiff and Hugh closer and support their journey through grief and Hugh’s reluctance to let his daughter grow up. Though the episodic structure diffuses the day-to-day struggles, the structure snapshots moments of high tension incredibly well. Good performances support the script’s father/daughter tension that’s as much about a parent learning to let a child go as it is about losing a loved one.
Rosie Wyatt plays Tiffany as a gregarious go-getter with little patience for her non-communicative father (Lindon Alexander). Wearing her heart on her sleeve, her turmoil is completely and believably transparent and an excellent contrast to Alexander’s typically masculine introversion. They both have excellent emotional climaxes endowed with truth and keenly felt by those all too familiar with losing a loved one. Hugh is arguably underwritten for much of the play, though Alexander’s fantastically executed and intimate moment with the tiny slab of his wife’s remains is one the best recent moments on a fringe theatre stage.
Kosar’s script focuses more on the characters and their interactions, but just the right amount of external influence drives the action forward. Some moments feel too brief and the amount of time passing from scene to scene isn’t always clear, but the narrative arc is otherwise strong. The contentious burgers, as disturbing as they are, manage to not tip the entire play into absurdity – great work on the part of Kosar and director Tommo Fowler.
Ruta Irbite’s minimalist design is at odds with the naturalistic dialogue and considering the action solely takes place in one location, comes across as oddly sparse. A chest freezer in the middle of a bare, white stage and a few plain curtains on the back wall keep the budget low, but conflict with the text. Occasional bursts of projected video montages make more sense to the characters’ emotional states, but the lack of domestic furnishings is jarringly surreal.
Kosar’s script is without a doubt a good one, and the performances helped to emphasise its conflict. With clearer staging and transitions this promising one-act could really shine.
Mumburger runs through 24 July.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.