The members of Spilt Milk (Anthony Byrne, Grant McDonald, Jacqueline Thain, and Catherine Ward-Stoddart) need to vent, but can’t afford therapy. Instead, they’ve devised a show based around a familiar experience for many 20-somethings: the sense that one is failing to be a “proper adult”.
With such subject matter, it would be easy to fall into clichés about the difficulties of adult life, but for the most part the company manages to avoid this trap. The piece is fast-paced, dynamic, and entertaining. It does not offer a profound exploration of its subject matter; the message is simple and clear: everyone feels like a failure at adulting and there’s no reason we shouldn’t carry a bit of childlike joy into adulthood.
At times the cast addresses the audience directly, confessing their own personal adulting shortcomings and asking the audience to reflect on their own experiences of adult life or even to participate. These are interspersed with dialogues between cast members and more self-reflective monologues. The cast work well together, but in a devised show based on personal experience it can be difficult to find the balance between performance and reality, and some of the dialogues between cast members came across as forced and unnatural. The rate at which Adulting jumps between threads and topics – many of which could be the subject of a devised work in their own right – makes it difficult to follow at times, and ensures the content stays quite shallow.
The audience participation elements created an engagement with the subject that was one of the piece’s strongest features, and it would have been nice to see them continued throughout the play, rather than disappearing midway through. Also particularly effective was the spirit of fun and childhood nostalgia embodied in the final section of the piece. The cast appear to be genuinely enjoying themselves as they re-enact their favourite activities from childhood to an upbeat dance track, and the colourful set contributes to the strong picture on stage, ending the piece on a happy and playful note.
While Adulting could have benefitted from a tighter script and deeper development of some of its ideas, it was, on the whole, a funny, engaging piece and a pleasure to watch.