Pros: A virtuoso performance from Milly Thomas both as writer and performer, easily holding the attention with the slightest glance or mannerism.
Cons: A dissection of emotional frailties and dysfunctional relationships is often uncomfortable to watch.I had to steel myself reading the programme for this one woman, one act monologue written and performed by the brilliant Milly Thomas. The play begins with a sparse set populated with three mirrors and a long narrow table, which we soon learn is a mortuary slab. Alice takes the stage and surveys a lifeless body; the realisation dawns that she has taken her own life. A charged 75 minute monologue recaps the final two years of her life, and profiles the people who knew her best: her overbearing parents, scatty aunt, drug addled brother, best friend Ellie and unresponsive boyfriend Ben.
This is a tough watch. How could a young person so full of promise decide to end her life? It’s a moral conundrum that confronts us in a society now resembling a fish bowl, where personal esteem is measured by ‘likes’ on a Facebook page. But we can’t ignore the issue, and theatre is the perfect medium to challenge perceptions of mental health.
As Alice watches the grief of her nearest and dearest, we get some idea of how relationships can fracture when people don’t communicate. Her stormy romance with Ben is explored in brutal detail, although with some genuinely hilarious moments; best friend Ellie represents a friendship earned and sacrificed as Alice’s emotional problems consume her. Alice articulates her feelings in a way she never could in life, and therein lies the real tragedy – all the conversations that never happened with the people that were closest to her.
The impact certainly wasn’t lost on the audience, who were laughing with Alice one minute, then crying with her in the depths of despair. I’m always fascinated by the audience reaction to a performance; I saw at least three people in tears as the story reached its conclusion. This in itself is a rare event, and shows how affecting Milly Thomas was in the role. Dust is a piece designed to educate rather than entertain on a subject that’s lurking right under our noses. For that reason alone it deserves the plaudits that will undoubtedly follow its West End debut.
Written and Performed by: Milly Thomas
Director: Sara Joyce
Producers: Ceri Lothian & Ramin Sabi for Dem productions
Box Office: 0844 871 7632
Booking Link: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dust/trafalgar-studios/
Booking until: 13 October 2018