Dust is not for the faint-hearted. With a powerful combination of spine-chilling performance and unflinching writing, Milly Thomas traps audiences in the disturbed mind of Alice, who has returned from the dead to witness the aftershock of her suicide. As both actor and writer, Thomas creates an immense exploration of mental illness that fiercely surpasses all boundaries. Though difficult to watch, Dust is simply electrifying.

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.  

Reviews by Carla van der Sluijs

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The Blurb

‘I've been dead for three days.’ A woman. A suicide. A choice. A fly on the wall. A funeral. A Bakewell tart. A life. A lie. A truth. An ending. Of sorts. Life, Alice thinks, isn't worth living. So, Alice kills herself. Sort of. Forced to watch the aftermath of her suicide and its ripple effect on her family and friends, Alice quickly learns that death changes people. And that death isn't the change she hoped for. Writer and performer Milly Thomas is a devout pessimist and chronic oversharer. Credits include Clique (BBC3), Clickbait and A First World Problem.

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