Milk

Three of the ‘seven ages of man’ populate the Traverse stage: a pair of 14-year-olds, Steph and Ash, wrestling for the first time with the ideas of love and sexuality; a couple in their thirties, Nicole and Danny, awaiting the arrival of their first child; and Cyril and May who, at 93 years old, have no electricity, no food, no warmth — only each other. Three sets of two, scrabbling for love and meaning in a world which seems to offer very little of either.

Milk offers a fascinating glimpse into the physical necessity and redemptive power of loving and being loved, through snappy, witty dialogue that entertains as it provokes.

Milk is a production of stark beauty. Vertical neon cylinders dominate the back wall, subtly changing hue to match the timbre of each scene. Scene transitions are precisely choreographed and artfully executed, characters gracefully fading into shadows, remaining onstage but out of focus as the next scene begins around them.

These apparently disparate figures are united by their common “appetites”, by that most fundamental of human desires: the need to love and be loved. But no one in Milk is totally sure about what form that should take. Every character is preoccupied with different versions of love — sex, romance, parenthood — trying to figure out exactly what it takes to feel whole, to feel fully human.

Helen Mallon gives a tour-de-force performance — full of hurt, anger, and swaggering insecurity — as Steph, a 14-year-old who wants “something” but can’t articulate what that is. She is tragically sexually confused, overwhelmed by arthouse erotic films and a culture which considers her whole to be worth less than the sum of her individually sexualised parts.

Tam Dean Burn — who stepped into the role of Cyril after the original actor, due to illness, had to leave — is another standout amid a stellar cast, embodying with poignant frailty a starving ex-soldier trapped inside his home for fear of dogs and (possibly) knife-wielding youths. His scenes with Ann Louise Moss are mesmerising: a soul-stirring portrayal of a relationship that sustains a couple, even when they have nothing else.

An assured full-length debut from Ross Dunsmore, Milk offers a fascinating glimpse into the physical necessity and redemptive power of loving and being loved, through snappy, witty dialogue that entertains as it provokes.

Reviews by Jamie P Robson

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The Blurb

Three couples struggle to meet their basic needs for food, love and survival. As they try to make sense of a changing world, their inner desires and appetites become driving forces that could lead to either catastrophe or redemption. Funny, dark and provocative, Milk explores the universal need to feed and to be fed; physically, emotionally, spiritually. An emotive and heartfelt play about what sustains us, what fills us up, what makes us sick and what we just can’t get enough of. Directed by Traverse artistic director Orla O’Loughlin, acclaimed for recent award-winning festival hits Swallow and Ciara.