Have just watched “Burgers” performed by Travis Havaburga. From the exhibition. T-shirt with miniskirt. They/Them pronoun earrings
Scene 1. Travis emerges from a giant green box wearing a blue boiler suit with heels. Hair is in a bun (geddit) on top of his head. “A BURGER WAS THROWN AT ME IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE SAW AND I HAVE HAD TO LIVE WITH THAT VIOLENCE. I NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE BURGER, DECONSTRUCT THE BURGER”.
Queue stifled laughter from me and cohorts. Am I going to have to leave?
More blooh blah blay about his victimhood due to being trans. And trying to ignore the fact that some people are snickering (i.e. us). Then he pulls over a massive cardboard box and gets in it. He acts like it is a bath and wriggles and wriggles inside it. As if he’s washing.
He’s changed out the boiler suit in a short yellow Paisley dress. Now with red high heels. Travis is applauded. He straddles the box.
He talks about the incident when the burger was thrown at him and about the fact that he is always getting shouted out. An epidemic of violence against trans people.
Then he goes to the back of one of the cardboard boxes and there is a drilling noise. Not sure what this was supposed to be. When he emerges he’s started sweating considerably.
“I AM GOING TO MAKE A BURGER, SO THAT I CAN UNDERSTAND THE BURGER”
Wheels out a kitchen island.
“I need someone to help me because I can’t cook. They’re going to be on the stage for a long time” .
“I need someone to help me make a burger so that I can understand the burger. I can’t do it on my own. I need *your* help” (This turns out to be a recurring theme of Burgers.)
This time a few hands go up.
Unfortunately these are the wrong hands. I look round, it’s mainly women who’ve dared put their hands up. “I want a white cisgendered guy to help me.” All the women put their hands down. Instead some embarrassed-looking men volunteer.
Travis spends some time picking from the men. Finally he opts for Calum. Calum is invited onto the stage, to be Travis’s foil and straight man. Travis asks him to tie a purple pinafore.
“Oh I like it nice and tight” opines Travis and shakes his bum at poor Calum.
Back to the enigma which is the burger. “Ooh what do we need for a burger? Mince!” Minces knowingly stage right.
“You can talk you know Calum. It is allowed. I won’t stop you” Calum nods in an obedient way. “What came before Calum, the burger or the box?” Calum deadpan.
“I mean Calum,” Travis carries on condescendingly, “what came first the burger or the box.” Calum’s looking confused. “What came first the burger or the box? Did woman and man come first or the cages they are trapped in?”
“Men and women came first” Calum mutters. Travis gives him an onion to chop up. “When did you first realise you were a man Calum?” demands Travis.
“I’ve always known that I was a man”. “But what does feeling like a man feel like?” says Travis. “It feels safe. I feel safe.” says Calum. This is music to Travis’s ears, because it allows him to be the ‘unsafe’ one in this stage partnership.
Then Travis turns to the topic of crying. How often does Calum cry? why does he cry? does he mind crying? The fact that he is chopping up an onion you can see the punchline a mile off. However, whilst Travis chews the woodwork, Calum subtly undercuts him with simpering shrugs and smiley smiles. In fact Calum oozes natural charm and charisma and Travis is left looking like a Pantomime dame.
Travis gets to his punchline: “When did you last cry on stage Calum?”
“When I appeared in X play at such and such theatre,” replies Calum. The audience roars.
It takes a while for Travis to recover from being usurped but salvation comes in the form making a patty. This involves him get minced meat and batting it down into a hole with a pestle. Cue saucy looks. The meat is minced and Travis gets Calum to pour half a jar of spice into mince.
“We want it spiced enough so that you know that it’s there.”
Calum just keeps shaking the jar over the mince.
Travis: “Do you think that’s enough?”
Calum: “i don’t know”
Travis: “Put a bit more”
When the mince has been spiced to fuck, Travis makes it into a patty and begins to fry it (not before having a serious moment of anger when he finds he can’t turn the cooker on “What is this about? he asks his stage manager, “tell me using your chest”).
“You need to press the button on the side” the woman says patiently. The patty gets fried.
Travis wears purple plastic gloves to go with his purple pinny. He talks about racism and how he got turned down once by a man who he met online for sex, because he was expecting a black man to look more masculine. He talked about the struggle with his body and his desire to have breasts.
He holds up some burgers buns at his chest. Then he commands Calum to tape the buns to his chest. Calum gets the tape and just keeps putting the tape around and around.
Just like the spice in the patty, Calum doesn’t stop taping the buns around Travis’s chest. Finally Travis rips them from his chest in a moment of dramatic defiance.
Scene change, Travis pushes some large boxes round stage left. He gets on the boxes and is bathed in purple light. He lies prostate, he stretches, then finally he sits, doing a handbalance and talking about his weakness. He closes his eyes and open his arms in imitating Christ.
“Open your eyes and see me” he says, eyes tightly shut. At this point I’m really thinking how much longer.
Much more whinging, including the accusation towards Calum directly that “It’s you with your hands around my neck”, Calum is dismissed from the stage and Travis wades through the most political bit of the performance. Transphobes are ruining his life and causing untold harm, including a murder only last week.
Travis starts shouting again:
“I’M REALLY DISAPPOINTED IN THIS AUDIENCE. ALL OF YOU HAVE HEARD MY STORY OF BEING HIT WITH A BURGER AND NOT ONE OF YOU HAS SAID YOU WERE SORRY IT HAPPENED. NOT ONE OF YOU HAS HUGGED THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU THERE WAS A WOMAN WHO SAW ME GET HIT WITH A BURGER AND LOOKED AT ME AND I WONDER IF SHE WENT HOME AND CRIED. BECAUSE SHE DID NOTHING. I WOULD LIKE HER TO GET PULLED DOWN THE LADDER WITH ME. WHO IN THIS AUDIENCE WANTS TO HELP ME”.
Identifies a woman in the audience.
“The look you gave me just then,” he says to this woman, “is just like the look that this woman gave me, can you come on stage and help me?”
There is confusion among the women who he means. “Not you, you” Travis tells the wims.
Woman comes down on stage. Travis tells her he wants her to read out some stuff to him and then “throw the burger at me, anywhere on my body”. The woman reads out a monologue, promising to always protect Travis and that their pain is her pain, etc and so on. However, she does refuse to throw the burger at him.
Travis faces her, and holds her hands in his hands and whispers inaudibly to her. Presumably he is begging her to throw the burger, because she shakes her head. He tries again, she still shakes her head. Again. This lady is not for burger throwing.
Travis has negotiated a compromise, she won’t throw the burger at him, but she is prepared to throw it at the kitchen island. The audience claps. This is the end of the show. Travis gets a standing ovation (not from us though, we are still bent double laughing).