Given how evocative and transporting smell can be, it’s puzzling that directors don’t make more use of it. In the Sarah Kosar’s quirky Mumburger, the aroma of grilling meat plays a large and vital part.
Tiffany’s mother has just died in a car accident and she and her father are trying to process this loss while planning her funeral. Tiffany’s even made a special death spreadsheet. Then they discover that her mother, an ardent environmentalist and occasional eater of road kill, has a arranged a ‘digestive memorial’ so that she can nourish her family after her death.
This central idea – the act of consumption as a way of keeping someone with you – is a potent metaphor for mourning, love and the upheaval of grief.
Having overcome their initial disgust, Tiffany and her dad chomp on burgers made from mum meat while gradually coming to understand one another a little better.
Tommo Fowler’s production sees them blow-torching grim little grim patties on the coffee table; Charlotte Henery’s clinical set ends up strewn with mustard, the floor splattered with semi-masticated burger. It’s at once satisfyingly primal and rather distracting: the smell, the mess, and the grease end up eclipsing things.
And while Rosie Wyatt and Andrew Frame give grounded and committed performances, there feels like a gap between what they’re doing and the more heightened material.
Kosar is really good at the dad-daughter stuff – Tiffany’s dad repeatedly quotes dialogue from syrupy Steve Martin vehicle Father of the Bride – and the intricacies of parental love. But as tenderly drawn as their relationship is, it feels like a lot more could have been made of this strange, sad play.