Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Sarah Kosar: Mumburger

By | Published on Thursday 22 June 2017

I heard good things about ‘Mumburger’ when it was first produced in London back in 2016, and so I was excited to find out that a new production would be staged at The Old Red Lion this summer. The play takes a surreal and darkly comic look at bereavement and how we deal with it, and is the work of acclaimed up and coming playwright Sarah Kosar.
I spoke to Sarah to find out more about her, and the show.

CM: What is ‘Mumburger’ about? Whose story does it tell?
SK: ‘Mumburger’ tells the story of Hugh and Tiffany, a father and daughter dealing with the immediate aftermath of the sudden loss of the connector between them, Andrea. As Tiffany tries to motivate her Father into helping her plan her Mum’s funeral, a dying wish from Andrea is revealed.

TLDR: Would you eat the person you loved most if they asked you to?

CM: What themes does the play explore?
SK: The central themes of ‘Mumburger’ are focused on grief, love, obligation and disconnection. I’m interested in pushing the question of how far we would go for someone we loved to the absolute extreme. It’s also important for me to ensure the theatricality of that idea is also pushed to an extreme that only the medium of theatre can offer. In the case of Mumburger, the theme of grief is personified by burgers (in all forms!).

TM: How would you describe the style of it? I’ve seen it described as ‘surreal’, but is there also an element of humour?
SK: I would describe the style as surreal but also along the lines of a black comedy. I adore teetering on the line between the beautiful and the grotesque and right on that edge is where I usually plant the humour. Having your Mum ask you to eat her as a dying wish is walking the tight rope. It’s horrific. It’s hilarious. It’s a heartfelt human request.

Audience reactions to the tone will differ every night and it’s one of the things I’m most eager to experience throughout the run.

CM: Does all your work have a surreal element to it? Are there common themes?
SK: Absolutely. I start with a central surreal juxtaposed image that I circle like a shark until I’m able to unlock the reason behind why I’m so drawn to it. A central provocation that unites my plays is the gesture of pushing the audience to not only find the unthinkable, thinkable but preferable. How can I make the audience feel differently about something by the end of a play that they would have never been on board with as they had their tickets handed to them? If you’re able to offer an audience a true journey within themselves by watching a play, that muscle and potential will reach far beyond the theatre.

CM: Bereavement is a tricky subject – what made you want to tackle it head on like this?
SK: As long as any subject within theatre is tackled with honesty and truth (whether or not you’ve been in that exact position), I don’t think anything is really off bounds. You don’t have to have lived on Mars to know the feeling of being isolated. In terms of examining bereavement, I thought it was an excellent set up to really explore being pushed to an extreme because what is more intense than life and death? I was also interested in examining obligation and it’s never more potent than when you feel it from someone who is no longer alive.

CM: The play was previously staged at The Archivist’s Gallery last year. Have there been any changes to the script since then? Is this a completely new production?
SK: It was an incredible opportunity as the Inaugural Writer in Residence at The Archivist’s Gallery to do a first short run of the play with Rosie Wyatt (Tiffany in ‘Mumburger’) and Tommo Fowler (director) last summer and we all learned a lot from it. When I was offered the opportunity to be a part of Clive Judd’s inaugural season at The Old Red Lion, it made the most sense to revisit the play both in terms of script development as well as with (for the most part) a fresh creative team. It’s not so often that you get a chance to push even further with a play and production and present it in a fresh way. The opportunity to do so has made it more spectacular than I could have imagined.

CM: How did you get into writing plays? Did you always want to be a writer?
SK: It all started with a bad breakup and failing to make the final level of acting in my senior year of uni at Penn State. When I was scrambling to figure out what other classes I could take to reach the level of credits needed for the theatre degree, a few of my teachers told me they thought I could be a writer based on how I approached improv and character studies. I joined a playwriting class, was secretly told in whispers about Sarah Kane, and quickly began ordering every £3 playtext from the Royal Court. Before I knew it, I had created a vision document of how I wanted to be a playwright in London one day. Eight years later, here I am. Hi!

In short, it’s taken a lot of grit and un-produced plays, but I’m now that writer I always hoped I’d become back in Pennsylvania in 2009. Thanks so much for breaking up with me, Ben! Also, a shout out to my old professor Jane Ridley for being candid with me that I was not an actor.

CM: What’s been your favourite project so far?
SK: I think it’s a very close tie between this production of Mumburger as well as the staged reading of my play ‘Spaghetti Ocean’ at The Royal Court Theatre. As the Royal Court inspired me to become a playwright back in 2009, it was an out of body experience to have my work on the legendary Jerwood Theatre Upstairs stage. The process and production of ‘Mumburger’ has been so polished, professional and more than anything else, fun. I cannot wait to share it with audiences this summer!

CM: What hopes or ambitions do you have for the future?
SK: A lot! I want to continue pushing the boundaries of what theatre can offer, exploiting the liveness and continuing to harness my specific style within theatre and potentially other mediums such as TV and Film. More than anything, my ambition is to continue telling stories and never stop growing or challenging myself. One day, I plan to have my own TV show alongside writing plays. Maybe also a line of my own pasta. That would be something very special.

CM: What’s currently in development or coming up next?
SK: I’m really excited to be a part of First Drafts Festival at The Yard Theatre with a reading of my brand new play ‘Human Suit’. The play examines the bodies we live in, the ambition that drives us and the things that make us better. Come along!


‘Mumburger’ is on at The Old Red Lion from 27 Jun-22 Jul, see the venue website here for all the details.

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