Spilt Milk

Thu 26th – Sat 28th November 2015

reviews

William Tilbrook

at 09:10 on 27th Nov 2015

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Spilt Milk is a show with much potential, though it lacks refinement in a number of areas, leaving it at a semi-skimmed medium where only a few qualities saved it from mediocrity.

The show was billed to be ‘udder chaos’, and with the significant delay starting and technical issues, myself and others were left wondering whether this was more true than the production team had intended. However, as the show started properly, it was clear that these issues seemed to be the teething problems of a production on its first night- something that cannot really be helped.

The concept of Spilt Milk, brought to the stage by a large production team and writers Haydn Jenkins and Colin Rothwell, is clearly funny. The idea of a milk baron who has increased the price of milk by 5000% so as to ransom the world into making it a better place for her teenage son has much potential, especially throwing in a few of jokes at the expense of Lichtenstein and utilising some stock tropes of a spy movie to much effect.

And it was when the production stuck to playing on the expectations of these stereotypical characters that the comic effect was at its greatest; Mum, head of the SIS, and Y, the gadget man, provided funny parodies of the generic spy film set up and the Texan dairy farmer scene received one of the more positive receptions of the night from the audience.

However, on a number of occasions, the gags just fell flat, eliciting a slight giggle and, in some cases, not even a response, which had to be awkwardly glossed over. The repetitive nature of some of the scenes made the show seem increasingly unoriginal, and made these scenes close to dull at times, which was a real shame for a production which was so promising. I cannot help but feel greater vocal variety in the character of Macy Johnson (Kate Marston) would have saved her from becoming so predictable and losing comic appeal, and some of the introductory scenes could have easily been removed by the directors to the play’s betterment.

What saved the production however was the energy and enthusiasm brought by the acting of Mark Bittlestone. The biggest laughs of the night always involved whatever character he was playing in his multi-roling capacity, and his ability to convincingly move from a flamboyant Argentinean boyfriend to bold American spy Trig Happy is testament to his comic acting prowess. Louisa Keight also multi-roled successfully, pulling off a number of characters from the Milk Sheikh herself to the budding journalist daughter of Macy, Gertrude, and this multi-roling kept the show interesting.

The ways in which the stage was used were also fresh, as all areas of the auditorium were included in the acting space (even the costume racks could be seen-deliberately!), making the performance more dynamic, especially with the use of the screen at the back of the stage. This added another layer to the comedy, and directors should be commended for their use of space, even if in performance the jokes involving this medium sometimes missed the mark; the continuing news bulletins were one of the items which became quickly repetitive.

However, overall, the execution of this project was average. There were some moments where the show felt whole, with the plethora of characters and staging keeping things interesting, but largely it felt like something was missing. It could have been much better with a lot more energy from the cast, bar Bittlestone who really stood out, and with more time in the production process thinking about how the scenes would fit together. Going along to this ADC Late Show will entertain you, but there are too few reasons to cheer over Spilt Milk.

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