Milk, Traverse, Fringe Review
Nurturing is at the heart of this year’s flagship play in the Traverse Theatre’s Festival programme, Milk. The beautifully written piece of theatre that’s been brilliantly realised by the creative team behind last year’s festival hit Swallow, is testament to the worth of the theatre’s annual Open Submission system. Writer Ross Dunsmore sent in his play. The Traverse loved it. The Traverse has produced it. As Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin says, “…it represents the perfect fulfilment of what we exist to do: to … nurture and give a powerful platform to …writers who have something vital to say…”
The cycle of life from birth to death and the raw mess that lies between is shown through the lives of three generations of unrelated couples. There is Steph (Helen Mallon) the vulnerable sex obsessed 14-year-old fantasist and her naïve chicken guzzling schoolmate and confidante Ash (Cristian Ortega); there is mid -thirties teacher and wannabee athlete Danny (Ryan Fletcher) who is married to the celebratory fecund Nicole (Melody Grove) and there is old soldier Cyril (Tam Dean Burn) who is daily beleaguered by fear, and his housebound wife May (Ann Louise Ross) both in their nineties and living in fuel and food poverty.
A series of light strips on the back wall change colour across the piece and lightsabre sounds herald scene shifts as the lives of this highly disparate group are played out against a long metal table that diagonally dissects the stage becoming a living room or a classroom. Containers set below the table gradually spill out the chaos that lies beneath the smooth surface of folks’ lives.
What links the six is the universal human need for sustenance and nourishment, not just through food. The loving old couple, with echoes of Endgame, are seated in front of the giant table and surviving on less than fresh air. They negotiate how they will manage to get food and choose instead to feed on mutual memories of more satisfied times. The young lass in desperation to be liked ends up starved of friendship by sending her teacher a semi naked photo on her phone. The new mother whose inability to breast feed her baby after her apparent abundance of milk drinks his supplement bottle in frustrated rage. All this is dark and messy yet the loose weaving eventually ties together, not in a pretty bow, but in a way that shows that ‘getting past things’ is possible.
The entire cast in this production is superb but outstanding among them is Tam Dean Burn as the shambling Cyril whose life has gone from wartime bravery to daytime fear and sadness yet who sustains a loving relationship with his wife May. The evocative old ‘40s song You’ll Never Know Just How Much I Love You accompanies her dance out of his life to much reaching for hankies.
This play is all about the milk of human kindness. Gold top theatre!
This year’s Traverse submissions window will be open from 1 August to 30 September. See www.traverse.co.uk.
7-28 August (not 8, 15 or 22) times vary Age recommend 14+)