Dust at Soho Theatre
Dust is basically like a millennial A Christmas Carol, but if Ebenezer Scrooge was dead before he journeyed through the various mistakes littered in his past and present. That may sound like a fairly flippant way of describing a play about a young woman’s suicide. However, Dust is nothing if not willing – perhaps too willing – to undercut its upsetting narrative with a joke or ten.
Alice (Milly Thomas, both writer and performer) has killed herself. Yet, for her, the end’s not the end. No, instead she is forced to continually experience the moments before and after her decision to take her own life, roaming far from the morgue that holds her body to witness grieving parents, friends and lovers – and even her own funeral.
Thomas’s play is funny. Sometimes it’s very, very funny. But too often it is so at the expense of anything else, Alice’s dry wit and deadpan humour constantly making it feel as if Dust is putting its defences up. Now, there’s every chance that’s intentional, that it’s meant to reflect Alice’s inability to talk about her issues – it’s just that, given she is the only character, the barrage of pithy one-liners has a tendency to flatten out portions of the piece.
What makes this all the more frustrating is that there are some absolutely stunning passages sprinkled throughout. A sex scene where Alice methodically goes through each potential avenue for suicide while being roughly probed by her boyfriend sounds aggressively unfunny on paper, but is actually the moment when Dust best finds the balance between distressing and droll.
A montage of months and years of snatched conversations, set to Max Perryment’s Chromatics-esque sound design, is so full of life in all its complexities that it’s excruciating to sit and watch it with the knowledge of what Alice has done.
And then there’s the depiction of her suicide. It is unbearably raw, an exquisite piece of writing and acting from Thomas that is so distressing it’s impossible not to look away, if just for a second, if just to catch your breath.
Photo: The Other Richard
Dust is at Soho Theatre from 20th February until 17th March 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Dust here: