Milly Thomas has made a splash across the pond, and New Yorkers are about to find out why. The actor-playwright brings her solo show Dust to New York Theatre Workshop’s Fourth Street Theatre beginning August 29.
Thomas plays Alice, a woman who, after dying by suicide, watches the impact of her death on her family and friends and realizes her passing doesn’t get her what she’d hoped. Thomas brings her full sensitivity and wit to the play, a performance that earned her the Stage Edinburgh Award at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The drama transferred to Soho Theatre in 2018 and then to the West End’s Trafalgar Theatre. Now, Thomas is adapting Dust for television. But before the story hits the small screen, Thomas is excited to share the play with Off-Broadway audiences.
Here, Thomas relates her experience writing her first play, her favorite part about her first paid acting role (opposite Tatiana Maslany), and her first thought when she takes her bow after Dust.
What was the first piece of theatre you ever saw?
Milly Thomas: When I was super small, my mum took me to see a children’s theatre production of Fireman Sam: The Pantomime. This is bananas for lots of reasons, but I would urge all Americans to Google “pantomime” and then Google “Fireman Sam” and let your imagination run wild.
What was the first piece of theatre that truly impacted you?
Lots of snippets spring to mind, but when I was 18 I saw the cycle of Shakespeare’s History Plays (Henry VI Parts I-III) at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. It was part of an education trip, and spoiled brat me didn’t want to go. I thought it sounded boring, and it was like Games of Thrones but better and my mind was blown.
What was your first creative piece you ever wrote?
A duologue about a guy asking a girl out that I showed to an ex who said it was bad and I didn’t write for three years. Don’t do it, guys!
What was the first play you ever wrote?
I wrote a play about babies and who gets to have them and a dystopian future that lives on my laptop that reminds me how far I’ve come.
What was your first audition ever?
It was for Poldark. I didn’t have a clue. Everyone was so nice to me that I wasn’t spooked and wanted to keep going.
What was your first paid acting gig?
It was in Woman in Gold opposite Tatiana Maslany and Max Irons. I played an air hostess in the flashback bits. Incredible wig.
When was your first time on a television set?
First telly job was a British show called Doctors (which I recommend you all Google). A true baptism by fire with good eggs all round.
If you weren’t performing your own solo show, who would be your first choice to star?
Oh God, that’s not fair. Too many amazing people. But probably if Natasha Lyonne wanted to play me in my life I’d happily step aside for her.
How did you first learn Dust would be coming to New York?
I was at Kings Cross station standing near the Harry Potter platform 9 3/4 queue when my producer rang me and I cried and a lady offered me a tissue. (London’s nice, mostly.)
How did you first learn Dust would be adapted for the screen?
A long long time ago—to the point where sometimes I forget and then remember and yelp a bit. (Telly takes a long time.)
What was the first line you wrote in Dust?
Probably the word “Fuck.” First word of the show because it was the first word on my mind and I was scared to write.
When was the first time you felt like Alice?
I’ve done shows where I forget we’re not the same person. I’ve occasionally turned around when someone’s said the name. Little things that sneak up on you. I’m Alice, but Alice isn’t Milly.
What is the first thing you do when you get to the theatre?
Have a wee and sit the hell down.
In one word, what was your first performance of Dust like?
What is your first thought when you make your entrance each night?
“Who am I going to be playing with today?”
What is the first thought you have when you take your bow?
“Is everyone OK and did we have an alright time?”
What is the first thing you do when you get back to your dressing room after the show?
Check my phone. (Narcissism is a disease).
What was your first night like greeting fans at the stage door?
Oh man there’s no feeling like it, especially as the story feels bigger than me. Strangers want to say hi because we’re all feeling raw. We’re all hear to bear witness to depression and anxiety and what it can do to a human being in a safe and cathartic space, and so it feels like meeting old friends and it’s a meeting of minds and sharing of griefs. But fun.