Created by: Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin
Directed by: Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin and Dylan Hutton
BATS Theatre, 25th Oct 2023
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
Milk, meet Halloween. Halloween, meet milk. MILKOWEEN! is the fourth entry in the canon of Wellington’s wettest show. In this blood-curdling, milk-churning improvised comedy, Ruff as Gutz performers make up a spooky story on the fly while we, the audience, throw water balloons at them whenever we want something to change. Three of these balloons are filled with milk. When one of them explodes, the consequences are so dire, it is worth crying over spilt milk.
In the curious, chaotic case of MILKOWEEN!, audience suggestions result in a terrifying tale set in an abandoned aquarium, where the ghost of Justin Bieber roams the halls, intoning “baby, baby, baby” and terrorising the local residents. Namely, dead fish, two sharks named Bob and Nige, and some dude (Dylan Hutton) who’s been trapped in the closet for at least 30 minutes, if not 45. The sexiest teenagers in all the land – Chad the Jock (Emma Rattenbury), Casey the Cheerleader (Tadhg Mackay), Felicia the Goth (Salomé Grace), and Nigel the Nerd (Zoë Christall) – must unravel the great mystery of the Biebs, all while dodging deadly toenails and attempting to learn the Shark Alphabet (Sharkabet for short).
The MILK concept is fun and funny, wet and wild. As you can imagine, forcing performers to change tack faster than a speeding balloon could be a recipe for disaster. Improv is challenging enough under normal conditions! Dugdale-Martin and Hutton in particular are glorious at responding to our cues, and one magical moment between a brilliant Grace and design leader and technician Jacob Banks serves as the perfect example of concept execution. The quick changes score a high laughter rate overall, a testament to the talent of this troupe. The improvisors all commit to their stereotype designations and conceive impressive character arcs in a short space of time, all the while managing to tie together such extraneous elements as unexpected cousins, interspecies relationships, and aubergines into one cohesive story.
Milky, mercurial madness at its silliest, soggiest, and most delightful.