The Ninth Floor Productions

Fortyfivedownstairs Theatre
28 Feb – 10 Mar
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Mateship, isolation and mental health are on the line in the darkly comedic Milked. Paul Roberts (William McKenna) and Snowy (Laurence Boxhall) have been friends for years. Now in their early 20s, they live in rural Herefordshire, in the West Midlands of England.

Photos by Ben Fon

Paul has graduated from university and is busily looking for work. He has his heart set on a media job, even though that is not the discipline he studied. He makes umpteen phone calls and submits a litany of applications. But, with a lack of experience, coupled with his remote location, the knockbacks just keep coming. With that, his frustration grows. He’s desperate to get out of Herefordshire and find something meaningful to do with his life. He even dreams of the daily commute to work.

For his part, Snowy doesn’t seem too fussed. He implores Paul to go on a walk with him, but Paul makes it clear he’s not interested. When Snowy chances upon a sick cow lying in a field, he appeals to Paul to help treat the animal. In a series of hilarious episodes, the pair tries everything they can think of. Snowy names the cow Sandy, but refuses to even consider veterinary assistance, even though nothing they do seems to make a jot of difference. Meanwhile, Snowy is given a hard time by his war veteran father, as he hides from Paul a decision that leaves the latter shattered.

Initially performed in 2013, Milked was the first play written by British wordsmith Simon Longman, who grew up in Herefordshire. Many components of it are laugh aloud funny. I ask you, how many ways are there to treat an ailing animal or put it down? The dynamic duo in this play all but exhaust every possibility. Having said that, underpinning these scenes is pathos. Unemployment, concerns about the future, fear of the unknown, loneliness and toxic masculinity are just some of the topics touched upon.

The acting is top notch. William McKenna wears his heart on his sleeve in exposing Paul’s vulnerabilities and anguish. As Snowy, Laurence Boxhall appears more resigned to his fate, although he too lets down his guard before this is over. With fortyfivedownstairs’ seating arranged for this production as theatre in the round, the actors cleverly use exit points to continue the narrative. I greatly admire the pacing in the piece from director Iain Sinclair. He mixes silences with frenzied action. The transition between scenes and within them is seamless.

Milked taps into issues of confidence and companionship, trust and tribulation with a deft hand. It is playing at fortyfivedownstairs until 10th March, 2024.

Alex First

Alex First

Alex First believes all people have a story to tell, if only a good playwright can prize it out of them. Alex has a natural curiosity about the world and believes a strong narrative, or narrative with music, can open the door to subjects about which he knows little. Like his parents before him, theatre is his passion – a passion with emotional resonance, one that moves and excites him. He brings decades’ experience as an arts’ connoisseur to his role as a critic.
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