Discovering Milk

Discovering MILK at the Edinburgh Fringe

Whenever I travel, I always Google “new work theatre company.” That’s how I found Traverse Theatre, “Scotland’s new writing theatre.” I was in Edinburgh, taking my high school production of Avenue Q to the Fringe. When I looked for shows at the Fringe from companies focused on new works, I found Traverse’s headline show, Milk by Ross Dunsmore. On a tip from a friend who attends the Fringe nearly every year, I purchased all our Fringe tickets in advance — including the first preview performance of Milk.

A SHARED EXPERIENCE

The energy of the Fringe is electric — enormous and intimate all at once. After a few shows, I began to recognize faces in the audience. Early in the week, I saw an altogether forgettable show but had a wonderful conversation in the queue with a local resident. She spoke with reverence for the attendees — “guests in my town” — and lamented about how empty it feels after the festival is over.

I ran into her again in the queue for Milk and we exchanged a look of “I hope this is better than the last one.”

I found my seat, the lights dimmed, and I was transported.

I don’t usually cry at plays. I think it’s because a lot of shows try too hard to wring an emotional response out of the audience, and that makes me lose interest. Milk was different. It caught me off-guard. It wasn’t over-sentimental or manipulative — It genuinely moved me. I wasn’t alone.

As the stunned, tear-stained audience filed out of the theatre, I caught the eye of my new friend.

“This one . . . this one is special,” she said, “the best I’ve seen in years.”

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Milk is a play about love. It’s about the need for human kindness, and how sometimes the things we need can be the very things that make us sick. It’s about three couples — in three different stages of life — who share one thing in common: the need to feel whole.

HOW I KNEW

This was one of those shows you can’t get out of your head. As I explored the streets of Edinburgh, I often found myself ruminating on it, tears welling in my eyes.

I became a bit of a fan-boy. I returned to the theatre, purchased a script, reached out to the Traverse staff, and to the playwright. I was amazed to learn that Ross Dunsmore had submitted the play “cold” — through an Open Submissions process:

“Milk came to the Traverse during our Open Submissions window, when we invite playwrights to send us their work. We read every play submitted to us. We are one of very few theatres in the UK to make this commitment…You don’t need to be on attachment. You don’t need a friend or relative in the industry. You don’t need to be known. You just need to write and the Traverse will treat you as a writer… It costs a fortune but Milk proves we can’t afford not to do it.”
— Orla O’Loughlin, Director

This ethos aligns perfectly with what we aspire to at Thrown Stone — you’ll find the words “opportunity” and “inclusiveness” baked right into our mission.

But there’s more to Milk than processes and mission statements. In our hyperconnected, yet conflict-riven world, how we nourish one another remains elemental:

…and I suddenly thought, that’s really all there is. Feeding and being fed. Everything comes down to that, don’t you think? …I mean really there’s nothing else, is there? You know, love is milk, that’s what it is, love is milk…

We thank The Chekhov International Theatre Festival for giving us the opportunity to share this staged reading of Ross Dunsmore’s Milk.


4 comments

  1. Desiree Smock says:

    Thank you for sharing this experience. I hope I get to see Milk someday. Best of luck with your new theatre company!

    p.s. Does almond milk count?

  2. Vanessa Landegger says:

    Powerful description. I cannot wait to come and see it.
    So happy to picked my home town to live in and for thrownstone.

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