Being part of this year’s London Horror Festival, The Milkman Cometh tackles the theme of the exceedingly poor state of the environment. This rebellious, bold and important play marries social commentary, comedy and horror—three themes which are not dissimilar these days. The play considers the absurdity of modern politics and environmental issues, and the associated attitudes of today’s citizens, in a critical but endlessly creative manner.
The Milkman Cometh is set some years after the ‘great burn’—the systematic burning of every single cow—a solution to climate change which ends up wiping out the majority of Earth’s population after the fires grow uncontrollable. The audience is taken to ‘Cud’, one of the only surviving towns. Here, ‘the Milkman cometh. The girls get taketh. The milk is delivereth’. Impressively disgusting, but suitably so.
The plot is straightforward and the metaphor is crude at points, but that is the play’s very genius. Protagonist saves the day, dénouement, a loud final scene. It is not intricate—no elaborate character development or unexpected turn of events—but it sends a resounding message related to the ethical conundrum linked to the dairy industry. It exposes nothing we do not already know (or are wilfully blind to) but is a boisterous attempt at holding us accountable. It calls out the deniers and conformists, and commends the rebels and converts. It would be undermining to call this 'vegan propaganda'; it has a deeper and more meaningful intention, related to our role as global citizens making personal decisions daily that directly impact wider demands and attitudes.
Despite its structural simplicity, various features of The Milkman Cometh build a far more complex story. The Milkman is presented through the use of puppetry—three actors manipulating a white sheet—which then becomes a motif for his presence. This adds to his anonymity, in true horror fashion. The Milkman thus becomes a personification of a faceless, greedy industry, plagued with questionable morals that we should investigate as humans, especially when we see it taken out of a recognisable or ‘normal’ context. The actors are accompanied by, and interact with the metal band ‘Fuck Slurry’, who perform the original score live. The play is punctuated by rebellious, and, at times, jarring music—a perfect compliment to the subject matter.
Post-apocalyptic yet disturbingly believable, if this counts as horror we need to ask why current states of affairs do not. ‘Just drink something else!’ Maybe it really is that simple.
The Milkman Cometh is a play by DeadPlant Theatre that was on the Pleasance Theatre until the 10th of October.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Head Digital Editor