Milk: a startling, humane debut

Tom Slater

Tom Slater

Topics Culture

Milk, the debut play by Ross Dunsmore, is about what nourishes us – physically and emotionally. It’s a simple theme that this accomplished and often beautiful script uses to illuminate the lives of three couples – one teenage, one middle-aged, and one in their old age.

Ash and Steph are secondary schoolers obsessed with sex and their own bodies. Danny – or ‘Mr Doig’ – is their teacher, whose wife Nicole has just given birth and is cast into mania by her baby’s refusal to take her milk. And Cyril and May are an elderly couple, so destitute and afraid of the outside the world that they’re slowly starving themselves.

Dunsmore taps into a string of modern anxieties – teenagers growing up too fast; breast-is-best parenting paranoia; the fate of the old and left behind – but the characters are too human to serve as mere soapboxes. Steph’s hinted-at past of abuse at the hands of her stepfather sets a bleak tone, but this is something that, in the end, fails to define her.

When the stories begin to intertwine, the play suffers. Steph’s pursuit of Danny is unconvincing – as is his decision to go along with it and chuck his career away in the process. And Cyril happening upon the Doig family home in the final 10 minutes feels forced. But, some clumsy turns aside, this is a startling, humane debut.


Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Milk is at the Traverse until 28 August.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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