Friday, 7 September 2018

REVIEW: Dust at the Trafalgar Studios

It is a rare treat to see a piece of theatre in which the artiste plays a role that she is so passionate about and so committed to that the audience can't fail to be moved and challenged by the performance. Milly Thomas has written and performs such a dramatic piece of theatre in Dust at Trafalgar Studios 2 which transfers from last year's Edinburgh Fringe. It feels that it is written and performed from the heart and with a desire to change people attitudes to depression and mental health. Milly reinforces this at the end by drawing attention to the role of the Samaritans in helping people affected by it. 

Alice has been dead three days when we meet her, looking down at her own body on the mortuary slab and over the course of seventy five minutes we explore the impact her death has had on her family and friends. Milly Thomas plays all roles and without the aid of costumes or props brings to life the other people in Alice's life before and after her death.

Sharp lighting which flickers, snaps on and off, and creates surreal settings for each scene is wonderfully designed by Jack Weir and is accompanied by an eerie haunting soundtrack by Max Perryment that helps punctuate the action and reset the time and place. Only her costume was poor with multiple skin tones in the different layers.

We are transported from the mortuary to a tube train, outpatients, her parent's home, her boyfriend's bedroom, the house she shares, the funeral church and the bedroom where she died. We meet her parents Daphne and Rob, her brother Mark, her aunt Isabella, her boyfriend Ben, and her friends Davy and Ellie. Each are portrayed with a subtle change of voice. At times her speeches are breathless and frantic , sharp and funny, crude and explicit , but throughout she seems sane and affected. She says sorry "to her body for the way she treated it", desires access to her phone to "scroll through all the grief" and bizarrely plans her own suicide while having sex with Ben. 

The largely female audience seemed to understand and recognise the life stories
she told and we could see Alice gradually overwhelmed by the emotional moving story leaving her red eyed and tearful at the end. Director Sara Joyce keeps a necessary steady hand on Milly's performance and has clearly steered the development of the production. 

It is at times uneasy uncomfortable viewing but it is a moving wonderful thought provoking one woman show that deserves wider exposure and the worthwhile debate it provokes.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: row C, Stalls | Price of Ticket: £20
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