Milk Bars is a nostalgic feast for all your senses.
Metanoia Theatre has transformed the Brunswick Mechanics Institute into a community event similar to a local Arts Festival for all age’s. There is a wonderland of rooms’ comprising of art installations’ of the iconic Australian Milk Bar.
Artistic Director Gorkem Acaroglu facilitates an interactive and informative experience. The audience is welcome to peruse the exhibits and simultaneously view monologues and dance arrangements.
The entrance hall, combines modern technology and memories. Flat screen Televisions flash a collage of paper advertisements of groceries from the 1960s and 1970s.
The front rooms features large white padded installations, film, and photographic images. Children and ‘big kids’ can enjoy playing a game of ‘virtual pinball’ that is projected onto an installation. Whilst others can view 60s and 70s television commercials, projected onto an enormous drinks fridge.
The heart of the Institute is a space that propels you into the past. The Milk Bar – ‘mixed business’ has a traditional sandwich counter where you can actually purchase a carton of ‘Big M’ milk or a ‘Sunny boy’.
If you fancy a treat, wonder over to the lollie counter and be served by Domenic Greco. His family owned a Milk Bar in the 1960s. He will entertain you with his historic memories while you choose from his selection of chocolate bullets, strawberry cremes, milk bottles, musk sticks and or a pre-made bag of ‘mixed lollies’.
The Milk Bar is kitted out with momentous memorabilia. These items include a soft-drink fridge containing familiar flavours manufactured by Cottees, Tarax, and Hepburn Spa, in vintage glass bottles. An entire wall is devoted to pictures of ‘Big M’ milk calendar girls, which evoked smirks and a few wide smiles.
A ‘Chiko Roll’ was a staple on most ‘mixed business’ takeaway food menus, in the 1970s and 80s. If you’re the adventurous type, there’s a ‘happy-snap’ or ‘selfie’ opportunity. You can poke your head through the cutout face of a life-size cardboard advertisement, featuring a woman eating a ‘Chiko roll’.
Elnaz Sheshgelani dancer and puppeteer, performs a dance sequence amidst the audience or ‘customers’ waiting to be served at the Milk Bar counters. Later she can be found throughout the venue, intermittently dancing, chanting, and you will hear the echo of her clinking Aboriginal dance sticks.
Shane Grant; plays a staff member who’s booming voice surprises the audience asking, ‘Can a few strong people help me lift some stock into the rear storeroom’.
He invites a dozen volunteers from the audience to an intimate rear room in the Institute. He performs his picturesque and humorous monologue. We hear his teenage stories of discovery and angst from reading comics and books at local Milk Bars’ in the 1990s. This monologue has adults themes and is not recommended for children.
Milk Bars were ‘reality’ meeting places. Janette Hoe plays a teenager on an imaginary date, in her ‘silent monologue’. She eloquently sits at a table for two and manipulates two milkshake containers, with their customary striped straws and creates a comical date scenario.
The children in the audience are able to sit on milk crates and hear a yarn about the Milk Bar’s role in the community. Domenic Greco’s stands at the lollie counter and gives accounts of the days he lived in their family Milk Bar. He mentions the Milk Bar had the only telephone in the country town. His job as a boy was to run down the street to alert the neighbour’s to come and take their phone call.
Today he is the CEO of Convenience and Mixed Business Association. He discusses the possible causes of the collapse of local small businesses and encourages the audience to shop local.
Young performer, seven-year-old Zayn Ulfan, gave a standout performance. He delivered a lengthy historical monologue about his grandfather growing up in a ‘mixed business’ in the suburb of Richmond, in the 1970s.
He gives a child’s perception of his neighborhood from the view in his concreted backyard that overlooked the corrugated iron roofs. He goes on to describe his dad preparing fish to sell and their scales ‘flying like confetti’ onto the cobble-stoned alleyway.
This production is reminiscent of the simplicity of life gone by. In this advanced technological age of fast food convenience stores and conglomerate supermarkets, Milk Bars art installations and monologues are still relevant for all generations.