Milk is universal. From our first breastfeed to our last cup of tea, we’re completely surrounded by it. Milk explores the need for three of our most basic needs: Food, love and survival. Steph (Helen Mallon) and Ash (Cristian Ortega) are fourteen. Steph fancies Ash, but Ash is more interested in Nando’s. Danny (Ryan Fletcher) and Nicole (Melody Grove) are expecting their first child together. Meanwhile, Cyril (Tam Dean Burn) and May (Ann Louise Ross) reminisce about the past and the son that is no longer with them, while their home gets colder and colder as the electricity has cut off.
The beauty of Ross Dunsmore’s writing is partly down to his structure; while scenes transition from one couple to the next, there’s no repetitive order so we can never be certain of what’s to come. As the characters change over, the whole energy of the text and action alters, providing bittersweet comedy from the young and sincere sympathy for the elderly. The relationship between Cyril and May is completely endearing, yet they reveal the harsh truth that although they may have have won the war, without a family to look after them, who is going to feed them when they’re old and alone?
Through the three couples, the play takes us on a journey through romance, beginning with teenage crushes and culminating with total love for each other. Relationships may start with food and sex, but at the end of it all, it’s about two people spending a life together. Two people sitting next to each other in front of the telly, hand in hand and looking back on their lives with no regrets. Despite hardly moving from her chair, Ross’s performance is captivating.
Ultimately, the success of this production is the underlying darkness of the stories in contrast to the life within the writing. The stage itself is dark, with a large angular table, which the actors are sat at, on and under. The back of the stage is lined with eight light strips, identifying the various settings and providing a beat for the moments when it’s needed. The intertwining of the stories helps to display the cycle of life and the balance between pace and stillness allows us to fully absorb each decision, action and consequence.
Milk is playing Traverse Theatre until 28th August.
Image: Sally Jubb