Mercury Poisoning Review

ATYP’s reviewing program was created to give young people a platform to voice their opinions and experiences while developing skills in critical reflection. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of ATYP or its staff.


Mercury Poisoning is an inspiring piece that covers serious issues still occurring today. The play follows three women as they try to make an impact on the world and achieve success.

Throughout the play, there was brilliant movement and physical elements that added to our imagination. These movements were very creative and often expressed the emotional climate and tension in the characters’ stories. Since there was no physical set, the lighting and background music had a massive impact on the play and provided the audience with an established mood and tone for the scene, it also provided added effect and dramatisation of the play’s plot.

The play grasped many big ideas, unfortunately, I found it occasionally slowed down by too much detailed information which affected the momentum and impact of the story. During the play, it felt as if I was waiting for something big and interesting to happen. I would have loved a big plot twist or reveal to help engage the audience even further than what was already accomplished.

Violette Ayad and Teodora Matovic in Mercury Poisoning, 2024. Photo by Clare Hawley.

I loved how Nicole had her own moment of realisation at the impact she had on the world, especially to black children. It was a great end to the play that left the audience feeling moved and inspired. However, I would have loved to see that for the other two characters as well. We never actually heard about their final accomplishments and the impact they had on society, instead the play showed them wanting more and craving to have a bigger achievement.

I also think that having information about why the characters were so passionate about accomplishing their goals would have been very interesting. Establishing the character’s motives would have added more importance to their story and the audience could have related.

The actors executed the play really well and added a lot of personality to the script. They performed with great expressionism and passion that engaged the audience in the story and the characters’ lives. Each character had different personality traits and the differences between them were displayed very well by the actors.

The meaning behind it was really important. The issues addressed in it are issues that occurred in the time it was set but sadly still happen in today’s society. Watching the characters face these challenges and issues with such passion really emphasised the purpose of the play.

Mercury Poisoning was a great play and had many life lessons in it. I think the crew and cast did a fantastic job and should be proud of themselves.

— Jessica, 13 (she/her)


Looming above the stage of Mercury Poisoning is something that feels alien. It looks inanimate, resembling a parachute without its strings, yet pulsates and vibrates shades of blue to the rhythm of an otherworldly hum.

Then it begins to breathe. It’s slow and graceful, floating like how a jellyfish swims. Each movement, each propulsion, becomes ever more captivating and breathtaking.

Tinashe Magwana and Shawnee Jones in Mercury Poisoning, 2024. Photo by Clare Hawley.

This foreign entity begins Madeleine Stedman’s debut historical fiction play and remains throughout. Set during the Space Race in 1960, Mercury Poisoning starts from Sputnik 1’s launch onwards. It follows passionate American pilot, Molly (Teodora Matović), Soviet astronaut, Valeria (Violette Ayad), and rising Black singer/actress, Nicole (Shawnee Jones). Meg Anderson’s hanging and striking set piece encircles the women’s narratives, constantly reminding us of what they strive for; to live amongst the stars.

Director Kim Hardwick succeeds in keeping each woman’s narrative grounded in our reality. She masterfully maintains a difficult balance between humour and gravity in each scene. Of note is her use of space and proxemics––male pilots posing aggressively away from Molly, Nicola towering over the Star Trek-esque commander, men in suits and the women at the courtroom’s opposite ends––all of it expresses this overwhelming tone of oppression through status.

Choreography was also a strength of the play, specifically in relation to the scenes depicting the Soviet narrative. Ayad was graceful and mesmerising in these parts, elegantly leading her tableaus. So close was Valeria to the success that the men are always recognised for, only for her to be shot down.

So close were Molly and Nicole too, whose disappointment and frustration Matović and Jones respectively embody so easily. Their performances, in the emotional nuances present when dreams are compromised due to misogyny or racial discrimination, starstruck the audience.

The ensemble was incredible as well, there wasn’t a single actor who couldn’t hold their own. The supporting roles played by Brendan Miles and Charlotte Saluzsinsky were specifically memorable performances. Both personified the plethora of characters that orbited around the three main women exceptionally well.

Shaw Cameron, Charlotte Salusinsky, Teodora Matovic, Anna Clark and Sarah Jane in Mercury Poisoning, 2024. Photo by Clare Hawley.

Molly and Valeria’s narratives also orbited each other well, holding an implicit tension and irony that the two represented rivalling nations, despite their almost identical experiences of womanhood. However, Nicole’s narrative, while deserving of its place in the play with its more metaphorical and everyday perspective of stardom, had a bit of difficulty fitting in toward the start. On another small note, while the accents under the direction of Linda Nicholls-Gidley were phenomenal, there were a few moments where they slipped.

Helping remedy these minor issues are Lighting (Jimi Rawlings) and Sound (Rowan Yeomans and Jay Rea). Their combinations of distinct warm and cold colours for each narrative; tense American orchestra and jazz; and traditional Domra Russian music further pull each narrative together.

Stedman’s play is a tremendous testament to the power of womanhood: tackling themes of equality, gender and racial discrimination, progress, success, expectation, and xenophobia.

★★★★ 1/2

— Aidan, 20 (he/him)

Mercury Poisoning is playing at KXT on Broadway until March 30th. Find out more here