Everyone has idly imagined their own funeral. Very few people long for it. Nobody gets the chance to actually be there while mourners carry their coffin.
Writer and actor Milly Thomas takes us into the afterlife in Dust, her piquant, potent one-woman show. We meet our protagonist Alice in an empty morgue, overlooking her own corpse. In a flesh-coloured body-suit, Thomas enacts the spirit of this dead twenty-something girl, occasionally sliding into different personas to play the grieving friends and family.
With death comes a strange disconnection and perspective. The thrilling realisation that the body she starved and scarred is actually attractive ('like the fit dead wife in a period drama'), coupled with the perverse pleasure and repulsion of her parents' stultifying grief. She peers into her own vagina, eager to see what a list of half-remembered lovers saw.
Over an intense 70 minutes, we follow Alice into the life she left, overlooking the devastation and dipping into the past to trace the years of mental illness.
It's a morbid, macabre prospect and Dust does not shy away from the trauma of suicide; we wince at the description of pushing razor blades into pulsing veins or the itchy sensation that comes with overdosing. But it's the lacerating comedy that cuts the deepest. Our heroine devises the details for taking her own life through the thrusts and grunts of painful, passionless sex with her long term boyfriend. She recalls, sulkily, how her best friend refused to join her in getting high, wanking and watching Mulan.
Thomas writes with an unflinching exactitude, which makes comparisons with Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag inevitable. Humour and horror come hand in hand, with equal intensity, but often it's the moments of normality that make Dust so affecting.
Alice is not a forlorn, lachrymose spectre. Many of her thoughts, fears and urges will ring with familiarity. She's vivacious, witty, yet utterly hollowed out by her illness. It's what makes this haunting play so watchable. And it's a sobering reminder that depression comes in many guises, bubbling away beneath even the most effervescent exteriors, snow-balling from a bad week, to a black year, to a lost life.
|What||Dust transfers to Trafalgar Studios|
|Where||Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
04 Sep 18 – 13 Oct 18, Matinée performance 3pm Thursdays and Saturdays
|Website||Click here to book now|