24 July 2017

Milly Thomas was phenomenal in Dust and Brutal Cessation at The Bunker

This was my fourth encounter with the talented Milly Thomas and I made the trip to The Bunker specifically because of her. She wrote both of these Edinburgh sized works and also performed solo in one of them. Previously I had seen her act twice and seen one of her plays, Clickbait. It was Clickbait that made me want to see more of her works and so I happy paid my ridiculously low £15.

Dust came first. It came with a work in progress warning and Milly carried the latest version of the script with her but did not seem to rely on it very much. The presence of the script did not bother me in the least and it did nothing to mar the performance.

Dust started strongly and got better. It was narrated in the first person by a young woman, Alice, who had just died. What followed over the next hour was an exploration of how we got their and what the impact of her death was on the people around her.

Alice, as a ghost (presumably) went to see family and friends and Milly played them too, or rather she played them as Alice remembered them. Milly proved herself to be a formidable actress.

The play was naturally grim, death is like that, but there was a lot of humour in there too which had me laughing, giggling and even squirming at times. To give one example from early on, Alice examines her own dead body and has a close look at her vagina as she had never been able to see it before. While doing so she remembered all of the boys/men who had been in there. It was a long list and she wheeled it off quickly.

Dust was similar to Clickbait in the way that it moved violently between moods and ventured into sexual territories usually ignored out of embarrassment. It was a very different play and the similarities were more of house-style that anything else. It is a style that I very much like and I loved both plays.

Dust built neatly towards an ending with more discoveries and revelations and after an hour I was emotionally drained and in complete awe of both the play and the performer. Milly has already achieved a lot and is sure to achieve a lot more. Update: Dust has won a Stage award at the Edinburgh festival; I'm not surprised.

Brutal Cessation was always going to suffer following immediately after Dust. I had invested so much in Dust that I had little left for Brutal Cessation and I was unable to give it the attention it deserved. I could appreciate it but was unable to engage with it. That was my fault, not the play's.

It felt more like a work in progress than Dust had with a lot of clever techniques looking for a story to hang off, or it was there and I missed it. A couple were going through some issue that mattered a lot but probably not quite enough to break the relationship. The clever bit was the way that they used the same arguments against each other at different times and repeated the other's dialogue to do so. It forced us to look at both sides of their arguments at the same time.

Brutal Cessation was a competent play that suffered in following a brilliant one.

I hope that Dust comes back to London for a proper run somewhere and if it does I will definitely go and see it again. It was absolutely exactly what I go to the theatre for.

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