Review: The Soliloquy of Discontent

LOUIS SHANKAR is left in awe at this new, one-off piece of student writing

ADC Cambridge Theatre

I was unsure what to expect of this one man one night stand: in retrospect, I don’t think I’d have believed the premise even if it had been explained to me in full. 

Mark Milligan took to the stage to rapturous applause and a soundtrack of Daft Punk, dressed all in white and sporting an Elizabethan ruff. His austere pantomime makeup was slightly terrifying. He then proceeded to tape various foodstuffs to himself. After some sudden but brief audience participation, the soliloquy began: “Chapter One, It would be very terrible to be a radiator.” Yep, you read that correctly.

The madness had only just begun: he debated with himself about the merits of being either a vacuum cleaner or a blender. Then the reasons against being a radiator were listed and explored in full. By this point, I was very confused and rather amused; the script was surreal and strange but littered with jokes and clever phrases.

And then it just got weirder. We discovered that the unnamed soliloquiser was, in fact, a fridge. An intelligent, lonely, sentient fridge. Which explained the food and the animosity to radiators – but overall asked more questions than it answered.

It was at this point that I stopped really writing any notes – I usually scribble thoughts down throughout a performance. But I put down my pencil and just watched. And I’m glad I did.

What unfolded was probably the best thing I’ve ever seen on the ADC stage. Words written here cannot do it justice, so I shan’t attempt to fully explain what happened. Over the hour, a strange, dystopian tale of politics, global warming and existentialism unfolded; it remained fragmentary, never fully assembled, but in the most perfect way.

We journeyed to Kyrgyzstan, to the discontentment chamber, to the depths of Hell (apparently a large fondue pot). Hundreds of years unfolded into an uncertain future, where the temperature was always 32ºC+ and ice was a luxury. The fridge was a man, an emperor, a god: and then a fridge.

Having seen Mark Milligan in several other plays, I’ve found he suits a certain type of character very well but generally can deliver solid performances. This was on another level: with his own script, the words tumbled effortlessly and gracefully forth. Even some ad-lib was strong and consistent; there was not a single vague break in character throughout.

The soliloquy itself was astonishing. A few parts could probably do with some polishing but mostly it was wonderful: poetic and Shakespearian, yet colloquial and honest. I tried to remember a few of the gems but only one stuck with me: “Mankind? More like man kinda shit.”

I left the theatre in a kind of daze. The ending was abrupt but fitting: despite a full picture, there was a sense of completion, of understanding the plight of a man-turned-fridge. On the walk home I processed what had happened and I couldn’t help but smile.

I hope this wasn’t the only performance, although a part of me thinks its power would be that much greater if it was. Either way, I cannot wait for more similar writing and performances. There is real talent here and amazing potential; there was an originality and creativity I’ve only seen thus far in professional productions.

Mark Milligan, if you’re reading this: bravo.

90%, a starred first (and then some).