I never done good things
I never done bad things
I never did anything out of the blue,
Want an axe to break the ice
Wanna come down right now
Ashes To Ashes – David Bowie
One of the things that’s sometimes levelled against people who take their own lives is how ‘selfish’ they are – that if they’d any comprehension of the pain they’ve caused, they’d have taken a different course of action. Obviously, things aren’t always so cut and dry. Often, depression and poor mental health are major factors, or other reasons that aren’t so obvious… Directed by Sara Joyce and written by Milly Thomas, Dust takes an unflinchng look at one person’s ‘final decision’ and the aftermath.
Thomas has an enviable track record for writing contemporary plays that are not afraid to ask hard-hitting questions. In Dust she stars as Alice, a young woman who upon taking her own life, ‘wakes’ to find herself as a ghost in the morgue. She’s initially fascinated by how her body looks from this outside perspective and by her parents’ behaviour. Once this novelty wears off, Alice catches up with her boyfriend, best friend and rest of the family, but what she really misses is access to her smartphone…
True to form, Thomas’ play is rich in detail, from the minutiae about her own (separate) body to what her former ‘nearest and dearest’ get up to. Interestingly, in her post-death state, Alice is very much like a supernatural character from an Anne Rice novel, in that her existential dilemma is still rooted in the absence of empathy and the denial that there are consequences for past actions. Of course there are also similarities in her situation to Scrooge’s visit by the Ghost of Christmas Future – except there’s no way for her to turn the clock black to set things right…
Dust is replete with wry observations and black humour throughout, though the aunt’s ‘meltdown’ and the funeral segment involving Alice’s brother are particularly memorable for their emotional candidness and versimilitude.
As the Edinburgh Fringe Festival draws to a close, Thomas has won The Stage Edinburgh Award for Dust. Having watched the play, I totally understand the decision and concur that it has a special place at this year’s EdFringe.
© Michael Davis 2017
Dust runs at Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61/Big Belly) until 27th August (4.40pm.)