Milly Thomas’ Dust follows the story of Alice, as she wrestles with her recent death. Looking on as a paranormal observer, she graphically takes the audience around the people her suicide has affected. She analyses how it happened, why it happened and how she felt there was no alternative. This superb one woman show attempts to end the stigma of depression, get people talking about mental illness and encourage loved ones on how to help those suffering.
Thomas is a breath-taking performer. From start to finish she is powerful, engrossing and superbly energetic. Her versatility is mesmerising. She glides effortlessly into completely different characters and proves herself as a truly engaging storyteller. Moments of depth and extreme sadness are handled incredibly well, and physically she is controlled and calculated. Thomas doesn’t need to be compared to others. Lots of people will look at Fleabag and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a comparison, but I think she stands entirely alone, as an actress with an incredibly promising future.
As a writer, she certainly doesn’t fall short either. Snappy, cynical and superbly witty, she encapsulates modern day adolescence brilliantly, and there are some one-liners that had people in stitches. There’s a fast paced fierceness to her writing. At times, moments in Alice’s stories feel like they are lingered on for too long, and perhaps some of the anecdotes could be shorter. Most of the time however, you are invested and engrossed in the world of Alice’s story. A world full of humour, sadness and desperate severity.
Thomas’ leotard costume neutralises her so she can be seen as a narrator, a ghostly figure and of course the many characters she portrays. Anna Reid’s set design is clinical and clean. Each lighting change transforms the atmosphere of the space, and mirrors the murkiness of a depressed mind. The staging is simple and sincere, three mirrors and a table are all that occupy the space, and there is an enormously effective sound design by Max Perryment. Director, Sara Joyce has created an incredible pace to this production, which never wavers, and matches Thomas’ gigantic energy.
The Soho Theatre is known for creating innovative, progressive and diverse theatre that sends an important message. Dust certainly ticks all of these boxes. It’s funny, it’s frank and it approaches the subject of depression from an incredibly intelligent and captivating angle. There is unexplainably, still a stigma around mental health, and shows like this get people talking about the important stuff, and as Thomas mentions post-show, that is her main objective. Not to be missed.
Dust is playing at The Soho Theatre until 17 March 2018
Photo: The Other Richard