Not only is Dust an exceptional piece of theatre, it is also precious.
Typically, theatre about suicide asks us to sympathise with victims, but Thomas’ writing breaks away from this convention with the problematic character of Alice, whose selfish and aggressive nature makes her tough to listen to at times. Rather than sympathy, she demands our attention, and she has it. Thomas moves between different characters and scenarios with breath-taking fluidity. She changes character so fast that she becomes unnerving to watch, serving us the same feelings of vulnerability that haunt Alice’s life.
It is not only in the performance of Dust that harshness can be found; the staging is just as severe. Screeching sound effects are painful on the ears and blaring lights flash between scenes. The sterile scenery of the mortuary also offers no comfort. All in all, it feels like a real assault on the senses that pushes an audience right out of its comfort zone and into Alice’s extreme world.
This sensitive nature of the performance does not seem fully reflected by its 16+ age limit in the Fringe programme. The themes raised are naturally important for young people to be aware of, but graphic descriptions of self-harm and sex plus a generally harrowing tone seem more appropriate for those at the later end of their teenage years. In my twenties, I certainly don’t think I have the nerves to stomach a repeat performance.
Not only is Dust an exceptional piece of theatre, it is also precious. Thomas throws aside all preconceptions of mental illness and forces audience members to face the grim reality suffered by those living with these conditions. For Fringe-goers brave enough to buy a ticket, Dust certainly makes for a memorable experience.