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[Review:] MUMBURGER, Old Red Lion Theatre, London.

An original and inspirited play, written by Sarah Kosar and directed by Tommo Fowler, takes to the Old Red Lion Theatre under the name of Mumburger. This review will consider the play's efficacy.

On entering the performance space, I, among other spectators, was taken aback by the mood installed: a warm purple, a small stage thrusting out into a triangular audience layout, a sofa, two lamp-stands and a metal-topped table. A simple yet professional-looking and intriguing design, enhanced by a funky instrumental. The first moments of the play were equally as exciting. A projector threw onto the curtain a series of images of disaster and destruction, a clever and subliminal setup. The first scene, however, in which we meet our two characters, Tiffany (Rosie Wyatt) and her Father (Andrew Frame), then fell a little flat…this was due to the performance of the actors.

Wyatt captured the role of Tiffany very well, clearly understanding her characters' intentions, emotions and motives. However, her style became somewhat over-performative, especially towards the end of the play. This would perhaps not have been too much of a problem if it was not for Frame. Unfortunately, I found Frame's portrayal of Tiffany's Father to be extremely dry and lacking. Emotions were not carried forward and, instead of coming across as a depressed, particular and dopey character, as the writing so clearly exuded him to be, Tiffany's Father was made to seem almost as an odd presence, aimlessly moping around the stage, with any expression of emotion seeming forced or unnaturalistic. There was a lot of potential to be excavated from the writing, and it seemed that Frame had missed a lot of opportunities. This, in turn, had an effect on Wyatt's performance, making her seem too exaggerated in places. Furthermore, later in the performance, where Tiffany's Father's inner emotions are permitted to surface, there seemed to be no impact. This was because Frame had been so lacklustre the whole way through that it seemed unfitting, odd and soppy that his character had any fathomable emotions at all. This was particular to his poetic monologue in which he speaks of the memories he has of his late wife. This would have been so much more touching and poignant if the rest of the performance had matched up.

I must ingeminate that the writing was superb. Not only was the concept original, but it possessed a comedic quality. Its dark undertones subversively infiltrated a lighthearted humour, but in a subtle and subliminal way. An effective and appealing introduction into the dark retreat of cannibalism. And this, on the whole, came through in the performance — even the very entrance of the burger was farcical and hilarious, as was the 'ceremonial' cooking of it. And this quality rebounded well off of Tiffany's Mother's own intentions within the narrative: to make it seem as though a guiltless, normal act of self-giving. As for the 'character' of the Mother, I enjoyed that several personality traits and secrets about her were revealed ceaselessly in each scene, giving depth and dimension to an absent presence. These revelations informed the mobility of the plot well.

What's more, it was clear that there were deep character developments. This was specifically well conveyed by the use set. The cleaning of the floor and table, the changing of the decor, and the change in the lighting's value and intensity brought a sense of rebirth and revitalisation to the stage, mirroring the characters' newfound abilities to cope with their loved one's passing. Personally, I would have liked the stage to have been kept messy and chaotic, full of meat and condiments, to have the sheer horror of the undertones seep out at the end, but I shan't consider this too heavily in this review, as this did not take away from the efficacy of the performance. I enjoyed the stasis created by having the characters on stage at all times; though, I did find it unsatisfying when Tiffany's Father left to get the commemorative takeaway, walking into the audience space; I felt this could have been done behind the curtain to maintain the illusion of a world created by the space. And I felt the same at the very end of the performance when Tiffany readied herself to leave the house, stepping off of the mat...and standing there for an awkward amount of time to wait for the lights to fade. The only other negative thing I would mention is that the clearing of the stage during Tiffany's monologue was highly distractive. Other than that, a strong development — even slightly in characterisation.

This performance definitely had a unique and modern style, and a clear structure to the play was maintained. Whilst I did not favour the mechanical grid-walking from both performers between scenes, I felt the use of space was successful in presenting the poetic emotional responses from Tiffany and the allusive characteristics of her Father. However, whilst I felt that Tiffany's Father's quoting of his wife's favourite film was evocative of his love for and relationship with her, especially in his reuse of the quotes in attempting to bond with Tiffany later on, I felt it a tiny bit unnecessary — and still not enough to counteract the dryness of characterisation elsewhere.

Finally, one issue of continuity surfaced in the very idea of Tiffany eating the burgers. It was unclear whether Tiffany was repulsed by the idea of eating her mother or by eating meat, and it seemed to lean more towards the latter, as this was expressed several times. However, Tiffany admitted to 'cheating' on her vegan diet several times, and so the idea of her aversion to meat seemed somewhat incoherent.

To conclude, this was an ironically uplifting and hilarious piece of theatre with ambulant themes and a creative, developed and original plot. On the whole, Wyatt's performance was engaging, but an underperformance from Frame made her style seem over-exaggerative — a shame of a choice, because he could so clearly perform well elsewhere in the play.

“A diverse piece of modern theatre with a good concept and good intentions, but under-executed in performance.”


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