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Monty Leigh

Review: DUST at Trafalgar Studios

Dust A clinical metal table, mirrors, a girl in wrapped bandages - ‘Fuck, I think this is the end.’ Dust, written and performed by the excellent Milly Thomas, is a one woman show about a girl called Alice who takes her own life. We meet her at the moment she ‘wakes up’ in her lonely afterlife and sees the chaos and pain she has left behind.

We are all fascinated or terrified by the thought of what happens after we die, we all hope or wish for something different. We have all - however briefly - wondered what our funeral would be like, whether our partner would run off with someone quickly, whether our family would give a good speech. For Alice, a young woman suffering from severe depression, self harm and anorexia - she doesn’t have to wonder anymore. The show - which has dedicated its entire run to The Samaritans - is vulnerable, painful and crudely hilarious in moments. 

Thomas expertly embodies the different characters in Alice’s life using a range of accents and paces, seamlessly slipping between them all. From the best friend Ellie who desperately tried to support Alice, to her Mum; whose sickly sweet mannerisms and speech perfectly demonstrate the difficulty some parents have in connecting with their disconnected child. Alice is somewhat naive and and irreparably broken, she is hooked on social media and even after her death ‘cannot wait to scroll though the grief.’ 

As the play goes on, we start to see the cracks in Alice’s resolve. When she was alive she didn’t want to be, yet watching the heartbreak she has left behind, she wants to to something, she wants to fix it. She wants to come back. 

What is brilliant about this piece is not only Thomas’ ability to capture an audience with her fragility and hilarity but the fact that Alice is not a portrayed as a remarkable or ‘special’ person. Her Aunt even says that they shouldn’t tell her grandparents because the fact she is dead ‘will not remotely alter Mum and Dad’s experience of that girl.’ This is the crux of the matter - depression is happening everywhere, and it does not discriminate. As someone who has personally been affected by suicide, I must say how incredible it is that Thomas’ and the team of Dust are opening up a real, honest, ugly conversation about suicide and mental health. This show unapologetically allows you to see how desperate people can get - and then, heartbreakingly, how desperate they might be to come back after an irreversible decision. Dust is a credit to its cause, it is an unflinching look at the scattered nature of mental health and it is mesmerising.