Milly Thomas’ DUST is a breath-taking exploration of the heart wrenching pain of depression that overtakes your whole universe whilst creeping onto everything that shines a bit of light. It is an honest and unsettling story beautifully executed by Thomas herself and the whole creative team involved in the production.
Directed by Sara Joyce, DUST is full of nuance and precise directorial choices, which enable the audience to fully inhabit Alice’s world. The opening scene set in a crematorium immediately establishes the ambience of the piece. Alice is watching her dead body as if it was a museum artefact; now dead she sees it as just a bit of flesh. And it is in those first moments of the play that we realise that she is not here to make us feel sorry for her, but rather to show us her true self and that true self might not be what we were expecting.
The complexity and multi-layered characteristics is what makes Alice so relatable and humane. Thomas’ ability to portray all the characters in Alice’s life, be it her grieving parents, suppressed aunt or her best friend Ellie, without turning them into caricatures but rather living and breathing human beings; makes DUST a long lasting and haunting piece. And please spare me from comparing this production to FLEABAG or Thomas to Phoebe Waller-Bridge (it happens a lot) for it only proves the point women have been making for a long time; the lack of stories written about female sexuality from a female perspective is pretty shocking. So no, DUST is not the next FLEABAG and Milly Thomas is not Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
There is something to be said about the high artistic quality of this production in all of its aspects. The producer Holly De Angelis has summoned an incredible team of creatives whose work ensures that DUST is well rounded and a conceptually thorough piece of theatre. Jack Weir’s lighting design perfectly intertwines with the bleak and evocative atmosphere of the play, whilst Max Perryment’s sound design echoes Alice’s past, reminding us of its inescapable ghosts and nightmares. The set, designed by Anna Reid, compromises of three mirrors and a metallic table; its clinical and minimalist style allowing Thomas to create around it.
In DUST, Milly Thomas proves herself to be in full command both as a writer and performer. Whether it is her personal experiences with mental health or her determination to get society to talk about the extreme intricacies of the issues surrounding our mental well-being, Thomas’ presence and vulnerability make DUST a lasting piece of theatre that doesn't offer solutions but just simply tells a story, a story that often takes place right besides us.