Review: Dust, Underbelly Cowgate

5.0

There could be an entire brochure of one person shows about mental illness this year. Most being long drawn out stories of someone’s life, ending with the hopeful message of talking about your problems and how everything will be okay. Dust doesn’t fall into such cliches but is an insightful, unpatronising & harrowingly truthful depiction of life after suicide.

Alice killed herself. Alice is talking to you. She watches her body as the morticians get her ready for burial. She watches her family as they cope with the loss of a daughter and sister. She watches her friend and boyfriend as they attempt to move on. Throughout the play, you get glimpses into the past, small flash backs of Alice’s life. You piece the story together, the whys, the hows, the who’s.

This is not, ironically, a particularly morbid play. Cracking one liners litter the script, fuelled from the awkwardness of telling a room of strangers about your suicide. These moments of comedy create a truth to the piece, which makes the ethereal situation of watching the world from an afterlife relatable.

Milly Thomas has crafted an excellent script. Touching and harrowing without ever denouncing how an audience should feel. She not only tackles issues of suicide and grief, but also contemporary culture. Social media, body image and relationships which are ‘all right’. All things which are incredibly hard to write about without trying to sound like an observational comic trying to be down with the kids, but the raw honesty that Thomas writes with tackles these issues with flare and grace

Milly Thomas gives a beautiful performance. Not just as the lead Alice, but also playing the other characters in the story. The mother, father, boyfriend and brother are all performed not as caricatures as can often happen in one person shows but as nuanced character studies that create a world around Alice. One of the highlights of the show is the exceptionally well observed aunty, who starts as a wonderful comic cameo but the longer she is on stage the more pathos comes from her. The story is told from Alice, but it is the other characters, the ones who are left, who bring the story to life.

Sarah Joyce’s direction is fierce and human. Sections of the play smash through the audience with hilarity or despair, but other moments linger. Delicately crafted story telling which is simply sublime. Sound design ebbs and flows in and out of the piece creating and other world feel and the lighting isn’t afraid on making a stand.

Dust is, an excellent performance by an incredibly talented company. The truthful alternative to 13 reasons why, Dust is a story which needs to be told, and Milly Thomas tells it excellently.