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Dust review at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh – ‘style and substance’

Dust. Photo: Chloe Wicks Dust. Photo: Chloe Wicks

Alice is dead, but is hanging around for the funeral. That’s the somewhat wonky, somewhat derivative central conceit of writer-performer Milly Thomas’ new one-woman show, Dust at Underbelly.

It uses a woman’s suicide – and subsequent paranormal observation of the aftermath – to explore clinical depression and the toll death takes on families, friends and individuals.

Spilling quickfire, speed-of-thought bursts of dialogue that flit between the prosaically conversational and the blisteringly intense, a unitarded Thomas wakes up, divorced from her corpse, and wanders the dissipating remnants of her life. She pays a visit to her grieving parents. She witnesses her boyfriend sleep with another woman. She cries at her own funeral.

Thomas the performer is great – versatile and vibrant, and investing Alice with a likeable frankness and a dark sense of humour. Thomas the writer sometimes overdoes it, occasionally landing on an adolescent, 13 Reasons Why morbid tension that grips, but doesn’t do much else.

Sara Joyce’s staging is neatly economical – a steel mortuary table, three upright mirrors and a pulsating combination of flashing lights and synthy sounds. There’s style and substance here, certainly, but there’s sensationalism too.

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A slick, stylishly staged but sensationalist examination of clinical depression and suicide