Billed as a comedy, Vassily Sigarev’s play Black Milk is more ferocious than funny.
A young couple — the cowboys of Russian’s new capitalism — have taken a mini break from city life to fleece the locals in a one-horse town.
Smooth-talking pays dividends as Lyovchik (Packy Lee, as charming as a snake oil salesman) and his pregnant wife Poppet (Amy Molloy), a hatchet-faced, shrill shrew, off-load promises onto the peasants along with a batch of faulty toasters.
In this bleak vision of Russia, corruption’s the name of the game, whether electrical goods or illicit vodka are the poison in the apple.
The tension between the old ways and the new Russia is depicted with little subtlety.
When Poppet’s baby arrives unexpectedly, she transforms from chippy city slicker to meek country maid.
Will nature win over nurture?
The laughs are thin on the ground in this rather plodding, heavy-handed allegory. Speeches are overlong, and performances varied.
A cameo by Frankie McCafferty offers a hint of how good this production might have been, before Lee and Molloy begin hurling insults again in a second act that — like the couple — overstays its welcome.
Whether they’ll have a better future on the mean streets than the green streets is a moot point — and by the time their train pulls out the whole stage seems to sigh in relief.