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Review: A Splash of Milk (Omnibus Theatre)

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

Review by Sam Waite


There's a sense of anticipation in getting to see a show develop before your eyes – back in December of 2022 I had the chance to see Sami Sumaria’s A Splash of Milk, and an updated version has taken to the Omnibus Theatre as part of the 96 Festival. An hour-long show set entirely in the bedroom of a 27 year old who wound up back in their parents’ house for the foreseeable future, the piece carries a familiarity and emotional weight before the central themes of racism in and out of queer spaces are introduced.


Sunny is back in a mostly white suburb after their student and graduate years in London. The room is a mess, mum’s help has become immediately relied upon for basic tasks, and the potential dating pool has shrunk from a vast ocean to a scummy puddle. While aspiring actor Sunny preps for a meet-up with a handsome, 6’4” man from Grindr, they treat us to a one-person show of some of their key moments of racial discrimination. Produced by Pink Milk Theatre, the small company also behind stage manager Andrew Houghton’s Naughty, this is a shining example of the power of new, more diverse voices and the need for their presence in theatre.



Sumaria, both the performer of and largely the inspiration for Sunny, presents this as a series of monologues bookended by the distinctive notification sound of a Grindr message. With this framing, it's easy to imagine that Sunny is imagining the way they might perform these stories on stage, and that any addresses to the real-life audience are aimed at the imaginary one they hope to reach. This helps sidestep the potential awkwardness of trying to tell a complicated story with only one performer – where Sunny’s mum is heard in voiceover (a pre-recorded cameo by her real-life counterpart), Sumaria delivers everyone else’s dialogue as part of the prose.


The previous version of this show, performed at the Camden Fringe before a run at the Hope Theatre, was already a well-constructed piece of work – here, whether through subtle changes to wording or to the pacing of the performance, the same stories feel just that little bit sharper, more assured. New material has been placed among scenes already present, with one particular story about teenage Sunny’s first experiences with pornography helping to sell the sweet, funny moment in which their coming out is almost spoiled by their parents having already realised and accepted it as fact.



The comic elements in A Splash of Milk work largely because they are relatable – some will get a bigger laugh from queer audience members, some from people of colour, but many feel universal. Sunny answers their unseen mother, saying first that they definitely don’t have any pots to be washed up there, and then that they have no clothes in need of a wash. Both, we can clearly see, are lies – but who hasn't left a chore undone and found their parents’ asking them to do it the most annoying thing in the world? Sumaria sells these moments with utter conviction, coming across as so genuinely annoyed at being nagged but so visibly embarrassed at being made to realise the sheer state of their living space.


Where the piece really excels is in its dramatic beats, where the often-funny anecdotes of dates gone awry inevitably end with some remark, some lack of thought, some sign that the newest dream guy was just a little bit more racist than Sunny had believed. Coupled with too-familiar, personal tales of outright prejudice – a passport control officer being needlessly intimidating, a patient of Sunny’s doctor father throwing around anti-Pakistani slurs – we come to see why Sunny is hesitant to revisit their like to have just a splash of milk in the metaphorical tea of their dating pool.



These weightier moments are also where Sumaria shines as an actor – their guard completely falls down and the carefully constructed world of Sunny’s show-within-a-show falls away as Sumaria seems to realise the racist tendencies of potential marches all over again in real time. “I said thank you?” Sunny asks no one in particular after a story in which passport control in America all but outright threw the word “terrorist” across the desk, and it sounds as if there's a genuine bafflement, and a deep sadness, to the realisation that they thanked the offender.


Created with a real sense of purpose and performed with a magnetism that helps us feel connected to the character from the first moment, A Splash of Milk’s only major detractor is an issue present across the arts. Stories like this, by people who have been marginalised and shut out of mainstream spaces time and time again, need the kind of attention and support that could help them excel. The show is wonderful, and an easy recommendation for anyone who has ever felt othered, or who wants to begin the process of unlearning their own prejudices, and I would love to see it given the opportunity to flourish with stronger, more detailed staging and a larger space to work with.



As engaging and important now as it was last year, A Splash of Milk is endlessly relevant and could easily evolve into essential viewing. Sunny may feel lost and lacking in direction, but Sami Sumaria and the team at Pink Milk have a real understanding of their work and the issues they want to address – simply put, this already touching show is well on its way to greatness.


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Following this run at the Omnibus Theatre, A Splash of Milk plays at Hull Truck Theatre on June 29th



For updates of future productions, following Pink Milk Theatre on Twitter and Instagram


Photos by Abby Timms

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