Milly Thomas: 14 questions

This interview with Milly Thomas was first published when Dust played at Soho Theatre in spring 2018. Dust is now transferring to Trafalgar Studios in September 2018:

Dust, by Milly Thomas, was one of the hits of the 2017 Edinburgh Festival. The one-woman piece, which she wrote and performed, saw critics likening her to Phoebe Waller-Bridge. And while comparisons can often be unhelpful and misleading, it’s no bad thing to be compared to the writer/performer whose stage show Fleabag led to a TV series and a key role in the new Han Solo film. And like Fleabag did, Thomas’s Dust is now playing in London at hotbed of new writing Soho Theatre. Milly Thomas tells us about the show, the effect of Fireman Sam on her younger self and a rather gruesome favourite London spot. [youtube id=dFmp0T0QDfQ]

How would you describe Dust?

It’s the story of Alice, a suicidally depressed young woman. She decides to end her own life and has to watch the consequences spiralling out in front of her, so is forced to confront the enormity of what she’s done.

What inspired you to write it?

It was a subject that had always preoccupied me as I had struggled with my mental health for a very long time. And it was a story I hadn’t seen.

How challenging did you find it to tackle the subject?

It was actually surprisingly difficult considering I’d assumed that having access to the subject matter would make it easy. I found it hard to get the drafts out – until I realised I was over-revering the play and had to divorce myself from it emotionally. Only then could Sara Joyce, our director/dramaturg, and I really start crafting away at it.

How do you find being a cast of one?

It’s a lonely comfort. I can sometimes be quite introverted. I quite enjoy the solitude until it’s play time and then I find I’ve got no one to play with. Some days I feel lucky and some days I think it’s the stupidest idea in the world and I’d have to be mad to do it.

Did anything surprise you when you first performed it for an audience?

The reaction, more than anything else. I felt physically sick and just tried to get through it. I had my parents in, which in hindsight wasn’t the best decision. It felt like jumping into an ice-cold lake, but I emerged to people handing me a towel, not leaving me treading water. [caption id="attachment_282062" align="alignnone" width="300"]Milly Thomas stars in Dust at Soho Theatre (Image: The Other Richard, courtesy of Chloe Nelkin PR) Milly Thomas stars in Dust at Soho Theatre (Image: The Other Richard, courtesy of Chloe Nelkin PR)[/caption]

How do you feel about bringing Dust to Soho Theatre?

I’m beyond excited. This is the venue where I’ve seen some of my very favourite work and I’m thrilled to add my voice to the programme!

What was your first experience of theatre?

It was Fireman Sam, the pantomime. I was about three and I have a really vivid memory of their foam heads. I thought it was the height of glamour.

Why is watching a live performance so special?

It’s utterly unique. Something magic happens in a room and the only other people in the world who know what you felt are in that room with you. It’s immediate. It’s transitory. It disappears immediately. You can’t buy it in a bargain bucket for £3.99.

What one piece of advice would you give aspiring performers?

Use the words you’ve been given. If you get in a tangle, the words will always help. Even if those words are the stage directions.

Apart from Soho Theatre, which is your favourite London theatre?

I’m a huge fan of the Bush Theatre. Their programming is so exciting to me. Whenever I walk into that space I find myself utterly transformed. Their studio spaces are an incredible addition and it’s pushing itself to the forefront of London theatre. [caption id="attachment_282059" align="alignnone" width="300"]Milly Thomas stars in Dust at Soho Theatre (Image: The Other Richard, courtesy of Chloe Nelkin PR) Milly Thomas stars in Dust at Soho Theatre (Image: The Other Richard, courtesy of Chloe Nelkin PR)[/caption]

Why do you think London is such a great place to experience theatre?

I think there’s such an abundance here and a great variety.

Which one other London show are you excited about at the moment?

There’s a day event coming soon at The Old Vic called One Hand Tied Behind Us, which is a day of monologues curated by Maxine Peake. Our very own Sara Joyce is working on it. I’m chomping at the bit to see what they’ve been cooking up…

Where is your favourite place to visit in London?

I love the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College Of Surgeons. It’s so gross and weird and I love being reminded that we’re all just bodies at the end of the day.

What’s your top tip for a trip to the theatre?

Check out the seating plans/audience reviews for sight lines. You can often grab a cheaper ticket and still have a pretty amazing view of high-end theatre.

Milly Thomas stars in Dust at Soho Theatre until 17 March.

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