Written by Rob Drummond
Directed by Finn Den Hertog
Wilson, Prescott, Mandelson, Farage, Miliband, Farage (again), Corbyn – there’s not a lot that these men share – outside of their target practice for dairy products.
Tory MP Arthur and PHD graduate Owen find themselves in restorative justice, a session designed to resolve a meaningful outcome following Owen’s throwing of a milkshake (strawberry if you were curious) over the Conservative MP. But as the kettle boils and the Jammie Dodgers go untouched, the rest of the moderator teams seems to have forgotten about them – leaving the pair to resolve the matter themselves.
With such a concise and authentic jumping point, one would expect the production to flow quite naturally – and yet, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Drummond’s script. A sense of setting the players in motion, seeing where the pieces land, comes across, but Rob Drummonds’ storytelling feels disjointed. The discussions of political discourse, justice and punishment all have a resounding core through them but the narrative flow seems stapled together, joining key moments without a natural progression.
At no point is this the fault of Richard Conlon or Ewan Miller, both exceptionally compelling in their positions as Arthur and Ewan. Their motivations, though eventually revealed, never feel genuine or fully developed. Their dedication and pacing under Den Hertog’s pacing mean Milkshake is a compact piece with genuine laughs and strong performances – a worthy watch. Conlon’s smarminess balances out the over passionate pleas of Miller, the pair demonstrating the strengths, and weaknesses, of either political placement.
But there’s almost too delicate a touch, outdated even in the short span since inception within the political sphere. We’ve come to grips with the utter depravity of the current political climate, where ministerial code is more of a ‘guideline’ it would appear – so the idea of political assignation occurring over admitting mistakes is a watery excuse. It equally ripples into the humour within Drummond’s writing – where at first Arthur’s sharper wit and unwillingness to conform enable Conlon a ripple of laughter, but the fall back to Partygate, Covid, #MeToo and Gender all melt away as quickly as a Snowflake reference.
It’s peculiar, the lack of teeth within Drummond’s writing, usually exceptionally more adventurous with scripting, Milkshake relies heavily on the performances to pull the script up by the bootstraps. And yet. There are nuggets of brilliance surrounding the fluff. Momentary exchanges between the two, particularly as we delve deeper into the impact of the initial act from Conlon’s perspective, raise a variety of well-meaning and challenging views; elegantly positioning the struggles and self-righteous attitudes many of us preach concerning tolerance and yet become difficult to hear.
This difficulty extends into the choking atmosphere, tight and oppressive – but council buildings tend to have that effect, with Gemma Patchett and Johnny Scott’s design enabling Hertog to hone their direction to exhibit control and heighten tension, compelling audiences to focus squarely on Conlon and Miller’s performance. Even as their character motivations grow more and more complex.
Like the titular Milkshake, there’s a substance at the base – foam on the surface. And whilst the acting and integral direction are constructed with conviction, the piece never reaches the peaks of intention.
Milkshake runs at Traverse Theatre until March 26th. Tickets for which can be obtained here
Image Credit – Jonny Scott