Review: ★★★★★ Dust, Soho Theatre

Review: ★★★★★ Dust, Soho Theatre

Dust follows a young woman (Milly Thomas), who after committing suicide, finds herself a voyeur to the aftermath of her death; forced to watch the knock-on effect it has on those closest to her. Writer & performer Thomas, aims to shine a light on mental illness, with the hope of reducing the stigma attached to suicide and to encourage people – not just patients and doctors, but everyone – to talk more openly about mental health.

Dust opens with a painstakingly loud, harsh, high-pitched ring, forcing the majority of the audience to quickly protect themselves by shielding their ears. This knee-jerk reaction is typical of society when broached with the topic of suicide and depression. The first step to combat this is for the community to stop covering their ears and start to listen. That’s exactly what Dust achieves.

One of the biggest surprises of the play is that it is achingly funny. The use of comedy to approach serious issues like anxiety and self-harm, proves an extremely successful tool and Thomas seems to relish the empowerment it gives. The narrative is formed from a series of flashbacks, jumping spontaneously back and forth to deal with the effects of the present and to revisit the events leading up to the impending suicide. Thomas merges seamlessly into the various characters of the piece; a devastated dad, an eccentric aunt, a worried mother. The best representation of the passing of time is seen in a sequence of snippets right before the climax; the main character travelling from January to December and back round again, all in the space of a few minutes. Very cleverly done and a true testament to Sara Joyce’s direction.

 

Anna Reid’s Set Design is minimalist and symbolic, with only a cold metal table and three hanging mirrors on stage. This leaves the character with nowhere to hide and evokes images of body dysmorphia. Thomas wears a plain, skin-coloured bodysuit throughout, which coupled with Jack Weir’s harsh strobe lighting, brings attention to the issue of body image and how female bodies in particular are scrutinised. Although provoking a laugh from the crowd, the admission by the character, that after death, she’s finally achieved her body goal, is a truely heartbreaking statement.

The play may be too sexually explicit for some, but what’s the harm in also tackling the taboo that exists around women and sex? It also serves to remind the audience that depression is a hidden illness that occurs in all ages and all walks of life, and is not exclusive to the stereotype often associated with it. This is a smart, warm, funny, young woman, so it’s powerful to see her contemplating taking her own life whilst doing such day to day activities like scrolling through social media, or whilst having sex with her boyfriend.

The final scene shows the suicide take place. It’s achieved by taking an overdose of pills. Nothing about it is glorified or gratuitous. It’s utterly painful to watch and drives home the fact that suicide is by no means an easy way out. The familiar harsh ringing of Max Perryment’s sound design, returns to close the piece. However, this time, fewer people are choosing to silence it, no matter how painful.

 

 

Chloe Hoey

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