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Monday 15 October 2018

Dust, written and performed by Milly Thomas, directed by Sara Joyce, Trafalgar Studios, London, 9* out of 10

A devastatingly honest and heartfelt play about depression and suicide which manages to be moving and funny too. Milly Thomas' writing and performance go under the skin; an unforgettable tour de force. 

Alice (Milly Thomas) a young woman suffering from depression looks at her own lifeless body on a slab in the mortuary. As her inner suffering has become unbearable she has tried to escape it by ending her life. But here she is now, a ghostly presence among those she has left behind: her grieving father, her devastated mother, her speechless brother, her comfort-seeking boyfriend, her practical busy-body of an aunt. Telling her story of the time leading up to her suicide and observing the time following it, she slips into all these characters with devastating honesty and a wicked sense of humour. She becomes increasingly aware of the big hole she has left behind in the lives of those she loved and who loved her and sees herself and her own life in a new light. But once an attempt at suicide succeeds there is no way back.

Milly Thomas performs her own play in the Trafalgar Studios. Her writing is true, gripping from beginning to end and at times very funny. Her performance goes under the skin, an unforgettable tour de force. The intimate space of the small stage of Studio 3, direction (by Sara Joyce), mirror, lighting all contribute. But Thomas' facility as the narrator for inhabiting all the characters and switching seamlessly between them is outstanding.

The play has been performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 2017, at the Soho Theatre in 2018 and now at Trafalgar Studios. It’s a reminder of the young talent in writing and performing which shines in the UK and for which the Edinburgh Fringe and the smaller London theatres with their eager audiences are an invaluable incentive and showcase.  

For those who have observed depression from close by or suffered from it themselves this one-woman play will be painful and poignant, yet it is also compelling and rewarding. No doubt, Milly Thomas knows what she is writing and speaking about here. "Dust" is also a piece of activism in the best sense, as Thomas is working with the Samaritans, an organisation dedicated to suicide- prevention. Every day and night the Samaritans save many valuable lives. Whenever they succeed,  they prevent the grief and lasting pain that one person’s suicide leaves behind in the heart of their family and friends.

Unfortunately, "Dust" has come to the end of its run at Trafalgar Studios, London. Those who have not seen it and would like to, will have to keep an eye out for a future run.

 Milly Thomas in "Dust"

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