For many of the Soho audience watching Milked it might be true to say that they harbour the dream of one day moving out of the Big Smoke and into the idyllic countryside. It’s interesting then to see the viewpoint reversed; not so much country folk desperate to make it in the city, but country folk desperate to get out of the country.
Milked introduces two young men, Paul and Snowy. Paul has just finished a degree in History and, with few prospects in his home county of Herefordshire, he is hell-bent on escaping the ‘silence’ and getting a job in the city in the enticingly vague area of “media”. Snowy on the other hand has a natural affinity with the land and is happy to stay, but his Dad wants him away from the family farm and doing something that will “make him proud”.
Testament to the quality of the Simon Longman’s writing, the characters honestly capture the angst that young people feel during that transition between being a young adult and bring truly independent. Indeed, they are so desperate for something to do that they take care of a stranded, incapacitated cow that Snowy finds in a field. But it would be wrong to say that they are vets in the making; they seem to spend more time devising mad-capped ways to end its life; drowning, suffocation, combustion. And, although this may sound pretty grisly, Sandy the Cow is the reason for the play’s sustained comedy throughout- a sort of comic turn on the phrase the devil makes work for idle hands. And this is the beauty of the piece: the comedy serves not to deflect the banality of the boys’ lives, but to highlight their desperation- comedy that is at once laughable and poignant.
The cast of two really mesh together on stage; delivering a quick back-and-forth patter of lines with a good sense of comic timing. Adam Redmore plays Paul as fretful and full of nerdy energy. And, in contrast, Oliver Mott imbues Snowy with an ingenuous sense of joy; for the landscape, for walks, for telling stories. But as with lots of childhood friendships, although Adam and Snowy’s is an unlikely pairing, Redmore and Mott fill the relationship with a genuine sense of companionship.
Their friendship becomes particularly touching as the play works its way to the conclusion that is both expected and fitting. It ends with a simplicity that reflects the clean cut direction which Elizabeth Freestone employs throughout, and while Milked is stylistically simple it will surely pack a punch with those who have felt the isolation of the countryside. Aside from its comedy, this play is particularly worth seeing as it gives such a fresh take on young people’s lives in the countryside.
Milked plays at the Soho Theatre until March 8th.