Review: Milk Teeth

ZoƩ Barnes 3 November 2016

Milk Teeth is a mixed bag, of comedy with lots of filler for a show that, ultimately, would have been excellent had it been half the length it is. However, the strength of the performers carries a lot of half-baked or under-explored sketches through to a semi-satisfying conclusion.

The initial impression was positive. The decision to turn the stage into a sandpit was an interesting aesthetic choice, successfully falling short of gimmicky, and an introduction where children are asked the sort of questions about current affairs that seem to cause many adults a headache set the tone well, accruing laughter from the outset.

Unfortunately, the early sketches themselves had an immediate sobering effect and, for a short time, it seemed that the only laughter would be awkward. Facile humour would have worked better if the toilet humour used had related back to a tighter interpretation of infantile mannerism, but poor physicalisation and vocalisation through the first few sketches meant that it looked under-rehearsed. A Tweenies-based scene was the perfect example of a certain lack of comedic conviction, not explaining much, not following through on the initial idea, and not really going anywhere, almost veering dangerously into predictable territory.

The more absurd humour was hit and miss, much like a child’s ability to jump between random, funny ideas and the sort of thing that makes you yearn for the company of other adults: but from “Young root vegetable of the year” onwards, the potential and strength of each individual in the cast starts to shine through. But this sketch does remain the highlight of the show: a fantastically funny, perfectly vocalised satire, and one of the few sketches with agency. The performers have chemistry, working well together, while John Tothill’s general performance stood out, though perhaps partly because he recurringly played the straight man to the rest of the cast. 

Other sketches furiously toed the line between being inane and good. One such sketch was an absurd date, of some sort, with a photo of the beloved and the ensuing love triangle, which tipped over into positive territory by the skin of its milk teeth. This contained a punchline and perhaps perfectly ridiculed social standards in discussions of love. Similarly positive was an improv, or perhaps meta-improv, scene where James Coward gave a very competent demonstration of the sort of crazed, Rik Mayall-esque aggression that is usually best reserved for theatre critics.

Milk Teeth has much potential and the performers are talented, but it is ultimately unsatisfying, the show ending on a rather weak sketch. Still, there are far worse ways to spend your time, or indeed your money, and there are a few gems well worth making one’s way to the Corpus Playroom for.