“I think this is the end.”
This is how Dust begins: with one young woman peering down at her own dead body, believing – for a moment – that she’s found some kind of conclusion.
After taking her own life, Alice is stuck in a state of supernatural flux. When she decides to visit her loved ones, she becomes a tourist in her own history and a sort-of ghost in her present. Being invisible is initially a novelty to Alice, since she can observe how her absence has affected everyone else. But reality soon sets in, and Alice wonders whether her death is really the escape she hoped for.
What we get with Dust is some searingly honest, brave writing that manages to be at once poignant and funny. The script is fast-paced and sharply witty; it sees actress and playwright Milly Thomas working into her character the darkest, driest sense of humour imaginable. The observations Alice makes invite laughter from the audience, but they never detract from the gravity of the subject matter.
Thomas’ acting, too, is phenomenal. She skilfully demonstrates the playful nature that is present within Alice, but she also encapsulates the character’s sudden earth-shattering fear of never being able to fix what she has done. She communicates, with heartbreaking passion, Alice’s longing for her mother. She captures Alice’s aching realisation that the lives of her friends and family will continue without her.
Dust is a harrowing portrayal of one woman’s experience with mental illness and her belief that her life can only end in suicide. The show is important because it isn’t afraid – not for one second – to confront the grim, the unpleasant, the hard-to-talk-about. It doesn’t shy away from depression, or drugs, or sex. It can be graphic and provocative at times, but this never comes off as superfluous. Dust recognises a need for open discussion and dialogue.
Dust merits a trigger warning. But if you’re able to watch it, do. With its exploration of important issues and its spectacular acting, Dust deserves to be listened to. It deserves its standing ovation. And it deserves five stars.
Words: Morgan Laing
Picture: Chloe Wicks
Dust, Underbelly, Aug 14-27 (not 15), 4.40pm