Milk and Gall
Election night in the US 2016 was an emotional time for much of the world. But for Vera, the character at the centre of Milk and Gall, it was a particularly emotional time as she gave birth to her first child in a New York hospital.
Although she is concentrating on painfully following instructions to push, she also wants to know the election results which are disturbingly bad for anyone remotely liberal. It's not the only bad news she gets as the doctor tells her the baby’s shoulder is wedged in her pelvis and is at risk of birth asphyxia.
That’s a memorable night for Vera, performed impressively by MyAnna Buring, but much of the next four years is a sleep-deprived blur in which she often finds the distracting cries of the baby make it difficult to concentrate on conversations or even have sexual contact with her partner.
Mathilde Dratwa’s sharp observational humour conjures up amusing moments in each of the twenty-five scenes in ninety minutes. But serious social points are also lightly included. For instance, during her hospital stay, her partner Michael (Matt Whitchurch) has to sleep in a chair because the empty bed next to Vera would cost a lot more. Vera, out later with her newborn child, spots the different healthier conversational style of the groups of nannies sitting separately from the mothers. “The nannies are my people,” quips Vera, to which Michael laughs saying, “that’s ridiculous. You’re a very white, middle class, nice Jewish girl.” However, making friends with a nanny (Tracey-Anne Green) in the park, she hears how the nanny does the work as a full-time job to support four children of her own that are left in the care of her mother.
The dialogue is quick, naturalistic and believable. Yet what happens can sometimes be quite surreal. Hilary Clinton climbs out of a television to discuss with Vera the difficulties of maintaining a relationship with a partner when there is a baby to look after. An FBI agent arrives looking for evidence of a person (Vera) who has disappeared. And an argument with her long-time friend Amira (Sherine Chalhie) ends with Amira pointing out to Vera that the baby looks like Donald Trump.
Each scene is organised around the jokes and characterisation is narrowed to that purpose. This could be a ninety-minute sketch show anchored by the dazed and disorientated mother Vera. The cast of five, in particular Jenny Galloway, morph easily into the various roles. This is a performance that will encourage social awareness of a neglected subject even as it provokes its audience to laugh.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna