All images By Marcin SZ
Milk and Honey
By Alex Billingham
Milk and Honey is an experimental theatrical show currently in development and testing as a scratch version. It was tested at 2021’s SHOUT Festival and Qwe’re London with an aim to begin touring nationally. Currently testing at Scratch / cabaret nights.
Supported Via –
- Queer Change – a development program run by Milk Presents / Homotopia Art Festival and Curious Arts Festival.
- Seeding space – a development opportunity by London Performance Studios.
‘Drink up all your milk dear, we want you grow to be a big strong BOY’
Milk and honey takes you on a visceral journey through our shared sense of otherness.
Alex examines their otherness in the form of gender identity/ transness / body dysmorphia and disability. While allowing space for your own unique form of otherness to expand into the space and intermingle.
Hear my Queer little voice ROAR!
Touching on Alex’s complex relationship with their deceased mother to explore the influence of the female voice and how disabled / Trans bodies intermingle and dance.
Let them hear our Queer voices sing and soar above oppression.
Content warning this performance deals with many issues including but not limited to body politics / dysmorphia / disability / sexism and may contain strong language and nudity.
They’ll drown us all in Milk & Honey unless we all start caring for each other.
A review of Alex Billingham’s Milk and Honey, by Emily Scarrott
As we take our seats for Alex Billingham’s latest performance, the audience is given a champagne glass full of milk and honey. My first sip is sickly, varnishing the mouth and scrunching up the nose; A greeting to the uncomfortable formula of the show’s title.
In Milk and Honey, Alex Billingham becomes a playful, childlike creature, existing in a space filled with sensory delicacies but carefully monitored by the watchful eyes of a stern maternal authority. This cis female figure appears as a threatening voice, reprimanding the artist’s instinctively queer exploration into their identity, yet it is also the owner of this voice that Alex admires, delving into her rich wardrobe of lingerie and jewellery. Tangled amongst draped pearls and shiny fabrics, Alex explores the boundaries of trans movement under the guise of mischief. This choreography quickly indicates how restrictive the cis female can be. It is this trans-exclusionary form of femininity which reinforces expectations of a gender binary and oppresses those who exist outside of these categories. Whilst the genderqueer artist shows a desire to share her aesthetics and dares to dress up in forbidden items, the maternal authority orders Alex to drink their milk and become “a big, strong boy”, maintaining a distinct separation between their identities.
Another (instinctive) sip of milk and honey, and another wince. Whilst each audience member dawdles through their glass, Alex must act with more urgency and appease maternal wishes despite desperate attempts to confront this assignment of gender.
Although the combination of milk and honey is traditionally soothing, here we see how turbulent it can be. Pouring an excess of milk into their mouth and over their head, Alex’s increasing distress illustrates how both physical and verbal material produced by mothers to nourish their offspring can become overwhelming. The artist becomes more vocal, singing and shouting in frustration, investigating the potential uses of their queer voice in performance making. Meanwhile, sighs and exasperated gasps naturally punctuate Alex’s activities, produced by challenging rituals that they endure within their live artworks. As the audience investigates another unbearable sip, Alex rubs honey directly into their body, consuming it and spitting it back into the jar, recycling this process until the boundaries of nurture becomes intermingled with the artist’s bitterness and rejection of what is prescribed to them.
Finally, Alex chooses to break strings of pearls, disrupting a cycle of inaccessible cis femininity to create a glorious rebellion, no longer fearfully precious towards the treasures of the oppressor. From the first pearl in a cascade hitting the floor, to a gushing flood of milk slapping against skin, this performance awakens its audience with delicious sounds. These moments illustrate Alex Billingham’s awareness of their proximity to the audience’s senses, and their confidence in creating for the senses of others. Surrounded by bouncing pearls, clutching a champagne glass, we are mesmerized by Alex Billingham’s playground.
As the performance concludes, the artist steps into high heels and, despite the difficulties of physical disability, suddenly walks with the unbounding confidence of one undeniably becoming themself. Alex takes centre stage, sharing memories of experiences where gender experimentation felt lonely and shameful, so that those of us who are currently finding our footing will not feel alone or ashamed. Alex also speaks warmly of the delights of trans life, a triumphant survival outside of cruel binaries, which is dependent on communal solidarity. Milk and Honey becomes a charming call to arms, encouraging us to cultivate each other so that we do not drown in a cis-tematic recipe of upbringing, dictated by biology and ignorant to individuality.
On my journey home, I still feel the crust of milk at the corners of my mouth, and the musty gloss of honey in my throat. Desperate to wash away these reminders, the audience muses upon the residue of milk and honey that is left on the artist’s skin, and how they could possibly be removed.