Review: Milk and Gall (Theatre 503, online)

A couple, Vera (MyAnna Buring) and Michael (Matt Whitchurch), are expecting their baby to arrive any moment, a month early, a ‘geriatric’ pregnancy on the night Donald Trump became President of the United States in 2016.

Sharply funny, often veering on fantasy, and pleasingly bizarre, Milk and Gall is a new comedy which doesn’t shy from the harsh reality of birth and parenthood. Mathilde Dratwa has written an involving piece as her debut which is sharply directed by Lisa Spirling (herself a new mum who took her baby to rehearsals).

It’s a story of love, of sisterhood, of politics. The baby stands for hope thwarted, shattered dreams, and crisis point. In a set (designed by Mona Camille) which quietly suggests a sterile hospital room, a living space, and more, the action is mainly carried by two characters, the mother and father.

Production image from Milk and Gall

Even the house Alexa (personified by Tracy-Anne Green) believes in a man’s world, whatever those who supported the idea of a ‘Madam President’ might think. The modern world, modern motherhood, is shown as tricky, as mother and baby boy struggle to bond.

Moments of surrealism lighten the mood (one scene clearly influenced by 2001 is particularly weird and wonderful), and as mother moves more into hallucinations and fantasies the story gets odder and odder. People appear who can’t possibly be real, and even Hillary Clinton makes an unexpected visit.

It’s about generational differences, too – the grandmothers (the wonderful Jenny Galloway is both, who, of course, has a song which fits the theme perfectly) interfere and manipulate, and you feel neither of these women would want anyone but Trump in the White House.

Production image from Milk and Gall

The friend, Amira (played by Sherine Chalhie), too, who has nothing more in common. The tribe of mothers who were together through pregnancy. The voice in the mother’s head which bristles with worry at every peep and grouchy cry. All these contribute to Vera’s changing state of mind.

This is a show which ignores linear conventions but still addresses topics which feel real, whether dipping into postpartum depression, physical and mental self-worth, anxiety, sexual identity, and bringing up baby in Trump’s America.

Milk and Gall ran at Theatre503 until 27 November, followed by a livestream on 30 November.