Dust Trafalgar Studios

REVIEW | Dust | Trafalgar Studios

Dust is a powerful and shocking piece of theatre written and performed by Milly Thomas about suicide and mental health. This performance feels like a punch in the stomach, it’s so raw but so incredibly important as it portrays the dangerous effects of mental health.

Milly plays a young woman named Alice who has taken her own life. After years of battling with her own brain, she finds herself in such a vulnerable place she needs to just turn it all off. She commits suicide but it doesn’t all instantly turn off, as the play follows her stuck witnessing her afterlife observing the lives of her friends and family that she has left behind. Trapped in this in-between world, she struggles to come to terms with what she has done.

The narrative switches between Alice’s story leading up to her suicide, and her post-death self watching her family’s lives unravel around her death. The set is simple, with a clinical feel as mirrors cover the back wall and the only prop being a shiny metal table. Thomas wears a tight, flesh coloured leotard and tights baring her all to show her helpless state. Thomas takes the bleak room and injects it with character as she engrosses the audience in her story.

The writing is sharp, poignant and witty. The extended monologue has immense pace and captures all the emotions of Alice with complex layers and complications. Her tangled mind has spiralled into a tunnel of desperation that isolates her from being able to talk to anyone about her feelings. Director Sara Joyce has intelligently unravelled these overbearing issues as we see the character of Alice slowly diminish as she loses control over her thoughts.

She is a character with real confidence and strength who hides behind her sarcasm. It strikes a distinct balance as just as things get intense and emotional, Thomas says something witty and blunt, but her pain still seeps through. It’s a seriously mesmerising performance as she delivers the character of Alice’s thoughts with such honesty. That’s what makes the show quite scary because you sit and relate to Alice. Laughing with her as she talks about periods, boyfriends and scrolling through Instagram, and you realise that this really could happen to anyone – and it does.

Taking on the numerous roles that Alice encounters in her life, Thomas shows remarkable versatility as she slips into the different characters with ease. Thomas embodies the eccentric aunt, heartbroken parents, confused friends, conflicted boyfriend and troubled brother. Channelling their grief and despair, there is a sense of regret in Alice’s voice as she realises what her suicide has done to everyone in her life. A painful scene to watch is Alice witnessing her own funeral, as her friends and family talk about her life and what she meant to them.

Milly Thomas’ Dust will resonate with those who have suffered with mental health and suicidal thoughts, or make those who haven’t, deeply understand.

It’s a devastating production that opens up about suicide in a brutally honest way. Yes, at times it’s uncomfortable, but it gives you a genuine insight into a problem that effects a scary amount of people, and what is the point in having theatre if it can’t open our mind’s up to real life issues?

Alice is a normal girl with a loving and supportive family but she just can’t escape the demons in her head. Bravely and boldly acted, and exceptionally written, it’s a gripping, thought-provoking 75 minutes that will linger in your head for weeks after. If there is anything we need in the theatre industry, it is more people telling stories like Milly Thomas.

★★★★★

On at Trafalgar Studios in London until October 13th, tickets and information can be found online here.

Information on contacting Samaritans can be found here.

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