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Staging ‘Milk’ again at The Street, in a pandemic

Having previously staged his work-in-progess, Milk, at The Street Theatre in May 2019, Canberra-based actor and playwright Dylan Van Den Berg will be performing the play once again over a year later, albeit in a completely different way.

Van Den Berg’s work-in-progress is once again in The Street’s First Seen workshop program this year, furthering pre-production creative development and writing creative development.

With Milk to be presented via Zoom this Friday evening (7 August 5pm), Van Den Berg said presenting his play online presents both challenges and some positives.

“It’s definitely a new experience but we’re all slowly becoming more familiar and comfortable with Zoom,” he said.

“(Director) Gin Savage is working through it so we can serve the intention of the script but also give the viewers a sense of how it might work on stage.”

He told Canberra Weekly he has taken time over the past 12 months to drill down on the work’s story, further develop the characters, and “implement and embed all the learnings from that week” spent in creative development last year.

“It’s now a richer version of the work. We’ve had some time to explore some of the other staging elements like sound and how that might inform the work and create atmosphere as well.”

Milk tracks the discovery of Van Den Berg’s Aboriginal heritage through three characters spanning time who meet in a metaphysical space and talk about the ways colonisation has impacted them.

Van Den Berg has relished the opportunity to work with the creative team that includes actors Lincoln Elliott, Roxanne McDonald, Laila Thaker, director Savage, sound designer Peter Bailey, and cultural consultant Gaye Doolan.

“I’ve been really interested in exploring sound, how it contributes to creating this metaphysical world,” he said.

“Peter (Bailey) gives a character to the sounds of the play, a lot of natural sounds – wind, rain, ocean – playing around with how they can transport us into memory both into the future and back into the past.”

Having staged the work last year after a week of creative development, Van Den Berg said the experience was both “terrifying” and a “great” learning experience.

“It’s always good to have the audience in front of you to get that feedback in real time,” he said.

The feedback mechanism for this year’s production, being fundamentally different due to the digital aspect, will come with its own benefits.

 “What I’m really excited about with a process like this is, it gives the audience an opportunity to consider their thoughts a bit more with their feedback.

“Sitting at home, not influenced by other people in the audience with your response to work … it will be an unfiltered, very personal experience while watching it. I’m very keen to see what comes out of that,” he said.

Milk will be performed live at The Street Theatre and streamed over Zoom for a strictly online audience this Friday 7 August 5pm; thestreet.org.au

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