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Review of Dust by Milly Thomas at Soho Theatre

Dust - Milly Thomas (courtesy of The Other Richard)
Dust – Milly Thomas (courtesy of The Other Richard)

It’s easy to see why Milly Thomas’ Dust has transferred to the Soho Theatre from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. It’s transportable, immediate and topical, dealing with the issue of depression and suicide with no qualms. From the off, Thomas (who also performs) gives us Alice, lying on a slab in the morgue, dressed only in a body suit, waking up from her own death. How Alice died is not exactly clear – this is the climactic discovery that awaits – but it is clear she did it herself. Alice thinks it’s all rather cool, and quite fun to spy on her family, friends, boyfriend etc as they mourn and move on. She soon learns however that her actions have had far-reaching and rather bleak implications for those that really knew and loved her.

The language in Dust is biting, crass, with real moments of humour lurking beneath the everyday crudeness of this twenty-something-year-old. Each new encounter, every flashback, illuminates Alice’s struggle as she grapples with daily life in her final years, weeks, hours even. Perhaps the fact that there is no childhood trauma, no seeming reason why this funny, down to earth, friendly character became so depressed is precisely the point. Depression is an enigma – many of us will suffer from it, yet it remains a misunderstood taboo even for its sufferers. This play serves to open up a conversation about the reality of living with depression until even life itself becomes too difficult.

The set (designed by Anna Reid) is simple: three mirrors, a stainless steel surgery table – but Thomas, under Sara Joyce’s direction, is able to transport us to the many settings in which her story unfolds. She is a joy to watch, despite some potentially overlong scenes, and it is clear this is a journey Thomas feels passionate about. Yet oddly enough, I found it difficult to become emotionally attached to Alice herself. Perhaps it was the fleabag-esque sexualised lingo or the quirky upbeat attitude of Alice in the afterlife; maybe it was the suffering she had caused, and the fact that she did not seem to care. Dust in this sense is a dialogue about clinical depression and suicidal ideation, based on the experience of a young woman who did not seek or receive the vital help she needed. A worthy endeavour, certainly, but given that one’s experience of these issues is so very personal and alienating, perhaps it is fitting that this play has difficulty in striking exactly the right note for its audience.

3 Star Review

Review by Amy Stow

A woman. A suicide. A choice. A fly on the wall. A funeral. A Bakewell tart. A life. A lie. A truth. An ending. Of sorts. Alice thinks that life isn’t worth living. So she kills herself. Sort of. She is stuck, a fly on the wall. Forced to watch the aftermath of her suicide and its ripple effect on her family and friends, Alice quickly learns that death changes people. And that death is not the change she hoped for.

Twitter @dust_theplay, @sohotheatre
Ages 16+
Writer/Performer Milly Thomas
Director Sara Joyce
Producer Holly De Angelis
Set Designer Anna Reid
Sound designer Max Perryment
Lighting designer Jack Weir

Tuesday 20th February – Sunday 17th March 2018
Running time 70 minutes
Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE


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