Interview: Milly Thomas on writing and performing suicide aftermath play Dust, Soho Theatre
Dust is rooted in personal experience, what made you want to write about it?
I think it all stems from a lack of communication. It was something I really struggled to talk about with friends, family and loved ones, so it came from a burst of panic, rage and confusion that I’d sat on for years and years.
What was the process like committing it to page and then lifting it off the page?
It was actually pretty difficult. Once I’d made the decision to write I thought the rest would come easily, but that wasn’t the case.
I’m a pretty fast writer but I’m only as fast as I am because I take a few weeks to ruminate until my head is too full and I’ve got to commit it to paper.
But this felt so raw and painful, it felt almost like it was birthed in stages. And then when the script was finally done it was rebirthed again when we finally took it into a rehearsal room and stood it up.
It’s a monologue - just you and the audience for 70 minutes, what is that like and how do you prepare?
Honestly, I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but I don’t prepare.
All I do is I warm up my voice, my body and I try and play games with myself to keep myself as reactive as possible.
The play moves so fast and it’s such a rollercoaster for Alice as well as the audience that it works best when I let it happen to me.
I am in control of the decisions but Alice isn’t and Alice and I have got to constantly battle for the driver's seat in my body in order to keep the play live.
The response has been pretty overwhelming and with that comes a huge amount of gratitude, but that said I try not to allow it to affect me.
If you believe the good then you also allow yourself to believe the bad and I have to remind myself every day of why I wanted to tell this story, the commitment I made to myself and making sure that the narrative remains intact regardless of why people are coming, what they’ve read about it or what they expect.
Why should people come to see Dust?
If you’ve ever been depressed, please come. If you’ve never been depressed and don’t understand how it can work, people come.
If you know someone who’s depressed and need relief, please come. If you need a belly laugh, please come.
If you’re having an existential crisis, please come. If you’re knocking around Soho Theatre at 7.15, please come.
It’s for anyone who wants to remind themselves that they’re a living breathing sack of skin and bone and we’re all going to die. And taking comfort in that.
Dust is at Soho Theatre upstairs until March 17, it's an interesting, thoughtful and entertaining piece and you can read my full review here.
Update: Dust is now at Trafalgar Studios 2 until Oct 13.
More about Milly Thomas:
Milly Thomas is a London-based writer and actor, whose credits include Quacks (BBC2); Cargo (The Arcola Theatre); Dry Land (Jermyn Street Theatre); & Downton Abbey (ITV).
She began writing when she graduated in 2014 from the BA Acting at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Milly’s first full length play A First World Problem opened at Theatre503 in July 2014 to critical acclaim. She was then commissioned by The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama to write Piggies in 2015.
Her play Clickbait opened the 2016 spring season at Theatre503 and played to sold-out audiences and an extended run. Clickbait is published by Oberon. Her play Brutal Cessation will also be running alongside Dust during the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.
She is a member of both the Young Writers’ Lab 2015 and Writer’s Lab Alumni 2017 at Soho Theatre. She has taken part in The Royal Court Writers’ Group 2016 led by playwright Stef Smith, and of Headstart – a group comprising of ten playwrights assembled by Headlong Theatre Company and Blacklisted Films. Milly has taken part in writers’ rooms for Pure Grass Films, Balloon Entertainment and Brown Eyed Boy and has recently completed the 2016 Channel 4 Screenwriting Course.
She has written episodes of River City for BBC Scotland and Clique for BBC3.