The Milkman’s On His Way
The Old CourtRoom
4th to 12th May 2019
“A brand new play based on the controversial 1980s gay coming-of-age novel, ‘The Milkman’s on His Way’, premieres at the Brighton Fringe this May.
The original book, by the late David Rees, broke new ground as a positive image of growing up gay and was published at the height of the AIDS crisis and during the era of Margaret Thatcher’s inflammatory anti-gay speeches. Rees’s novel was debated in Parliament during the Section 28 debates, which resulted in the introduction of harmful legislation making it illegal for schools to ‘promote’ homosexuality – or even talk about it at all. Many accused it of ‘glorifying’ gay sex.
Three decades later, it is being adapted for the stage for the first time, by playwright Kevin Kelly. It will feature some of the very best music from the era and a full cast of professional actors who will recreate the terror and exhilaration of discovering your true self and making your way in a hostile world as you search for true love.”
Review by Richard Lambert, 4 Stars
David Rees’ novel in 1982, The Milkman’s on his Way, was banned in British schools by the then Tory government under Thatcher’s bigoted regime. It was cited in the House of Lords for promoting homosexuality. In the 1999 debate on Section 28, Baroness Knight of Collingtree said that it “explicitly described homosexual intercourse and, indeed, glorified it, encouraging youngsters to believe that it was better than any other sexual way of life.”
Kevin Kelly has since written this play based on the novel and it’s a powerful piece of theatre! Premiering here at the Brighton Fringe it’s a must-see play of huge relevance. Even today there is prejudice and discrimination which contributes to the shocking statistics showing 1/3 of homeless youth in our cities are a direct result of LGBT+ intolerance.
Kevin’s verbatim is hard-hitting and speaks for itself. The drama is all there and the emotion zings by what is said. At 2 hours in length (including the interval) this is not your usual Fringe production squeezed into 55 minutes.
Tim MacArthur’s staging is focussed and direct. With multi-shaped wooden boxes from Amy Mitchell and remotely controlled internal lighting from Vittoria Verta they’re re-arranged to form different locations and multi-levels. All very competently managed by a great cast who mainly stay on stage throughout the entire production.
Entering the theatre the typical house music has been replaced by video and sound of Thatcher issuing her vile statements and proliferations attacking homosexuals. In today’s age it’s hard to understand how she managed to get away with this and garner support for something so destructive and soul-destroying as “Section 28”. But yes, this really happened and not so long ago within the UK. The intolerance then should never be forgotten as we live in a World which has Tommy Robinson supporters and a “civilised” country that voted-in Trump.
Unfortunately for the particular performance I saw there were technical issues. The house opened 20 mins late with the lighting system not fully working. Fringe Festivals are tricky to manage at the best of times but this demonstrates why you need professional competent technicians at every venue. With one of the 4 lighting stands not working for the majority of the piece there was no face light for any stage right action, and with Cues popping on in sometimes odd places it was apparent that there were issues. One of the lights permanently aimed at the auditorium roof remained on for most of the show. Any show is always at the mercy of a venue and this venue needs more technical polish.
Despite these distractions, this short-run production stamps a lasting impression and deserves to be a permanent part of the British Theatre landscape.
Director: Tim McArthur
Producer and Writer: Kevin Kelly
Set and Costume Designer: Amy Mitchell
Lighting Designer: Vittoria Verta
Stage Manager: Emily Walls
Photo Credit: Polly Hancock
The Milkman’s on His Way
By K-Squared Productions Ltd
The Old Courtroom Theatre, 118 Church St (side entrance), Brighton, BN1 1UD
Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th May: 2pm and 8pm
Thursday 9th & Friday 10th May: 8pm
Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th May: 2pm and 8pm
All tickets are £12
To book tickets visit brightonfringe.org or call 01273 917272