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MILKMILKLEMONADE – Ovalhouse Theatre, London.

milkmilklemonadeSitting on hay bales, hit in the head with a balloon chicken, singing, dancing, and rhythmic gymnastics; Joshua Conkel’s MilkMilkLemonade is an endearing and charming story of growing up a bit differently.

Nanna’s Christian chicken processing farm is home to fifth grader Emory, and his best friend Linda the giant chicken who are rehearsing for the ‘Reach for the Stars’ talent show. With fire-obsessed Elliot living at the farm down the road the 80 minutes whizz past in a wacky, laugh out loud blur.

Daniel Francis-Swaby radiates a sweetness that makes him instantly likeable. His unwavering hope for escaping his pre-destined role on the farm and passion for all things musical Theatre; even if Linda thinks “Hair was too disco”, means you have to root for him. His talent as an all-round performer is perfectly showcased; from donning knee pads for an almost flawless ribbon twirling session to an extravagant big show number to ‘Anything Goes’ his skills are enviable.

As a poor stand up comedian with a Brooklyn accent, but an impressive dancer in yellow crocs, Laura Evelyn as Linda is a brilliant conception by Conkel. Everyone has an imaginary friend, but you’ll be adamant she’s as real as the straw you’re covered in by the end.

It’s difficult to fully articulate what you see at the Ovalhouse, this is due mostly to ‘Lady-in-Leotard’ Georgia Buchanan. Strutting around with some fabulous red lacy knickers on show, after two minutes her character seems completely necessary. A parasitic leg tumour, Rochelle the fabulous but fatal spider, the physical embodiment of a doll named Starlene and most importantly a chicken translator Buchanan’s insanity seems completely rational within the confines of the piece. She is vivacious, bonkers and larger than life.

Plays about growing up can sometimes come off as a little preachy, but Conkel’s creation is the best mix of genius and lunacy. It is easier to deal with big issues when people are laughing, and there is clearly method in his madness. Two young boys dealing with their sexuality in completely different ways, under oppressive circumstances doesn’t lose its importance because you’re giggling at the hilarity that’s going on around them.

MilkMilkLemonade is a really important piece with a warmth that makes it easier to swallow and have you smiling at its off the wall charm.

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Reviewed 10/10/14

By Joanna Trainor

8th – 25th October 2014
Ovalhouse Theatre, London, SE11.


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