Venue: The Drama Barn
Run: 11th-13th November 2011
Directed by: Matthew Lecznar
Produced by: Claire Drury
This week’s performance of Howard Brenton’s 1975 play ‘The Saliva Milkshake’ was half an hour of political paranoia, beautifully minimalistic setting and quiet yet powerful acting. Set in the wake of the killing of the British Home Secretary by Joan (Lily Cooper), the central character Martin (Connor Abbott) is found stuck between a rock and a hard place: betraying Joan and his past as a student socialist revolutionary, or betraying the system he is now very much a part of – that of 1970s Britain. This decision is made all the more potent by the personification of the British Government in the form of Raffety (stunningly portrayed by Ryan Hall), a powerful yet anonymously positioned government agent.
‘We’re a dead generation now’. Connor’s ominous statement is both well voiced and has a certain intimacy with the current political uncertainty about the future. Whilst his interaction with other characters at times left something to be desired, the poignancy of his speech concerning spearheading social change made up for this; for Martin is the face of the politically undetermined majority, and his talk of paranoia, lit by lamps and accompanied only by the whirring of a projector (which was exceptionally used by Katie Lambert [lighting design] to portray the claustrophobic mood of the scenes) – watched over from the darkened sidelines by the ever-present Raffety – could not be more relevant to the current state of affairs. With talk of closed hearings and ever-increasing police powers, the tone is detached enough so that the play did not become overly ‘politicked’, yet still held an intellectual grasp on the audience’s conscience.
Ross Cronshaw’s versatile performance flitting between portraying the drug-addled Johnny and Martin’s stoic benefactor Sir Robert must be credited; as well as Lily Cooper, who was at times almost overpoweringly genuine as the face of a desperate, ideologically driven rebel. This power only added to her initial coercing of Connor, the latter embodying the picture of moral angst and whose occasionally forced dialogue, instead of detracting from the performance; actually made the divide between Martin and Joan more transparent and indeed more ‘real’.
Overall, the residing image of the play was that of the brutal reality of being outside of society, and of the increasing paranoia of twenty-first century political rebellion, imaginatively assembled by Director Matthew Lecznar.