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[Review:] RUST, Bush Theatre, London.

Written by Kenny Emson and directed by Eleanor Rhode, Rust is currently performing at the Bush Theatre in London.

This story is nowhere near original and was quite lacklustre in its direction and premise, which was disappointing. The content of scenes, which were very short and suited more for cinema, became repetitious after a while, making for a lack of depth. What this performance does do, however, is demonstrate the insidious addictiveness and short-lasting relief and intrigue that affairs bring many people. Its characters, Nadia (Claire Lams) and Daniel (Jon Foster), are good representations of the lack of self-worth and self-love and the apathy, boredom, and dissatisfaction that all associate themselves with adultery and drive people towards it. It illustrates a humanly need for love, affection, escapism and freedom, and its ending makes a start to exemplify the complexity of the emotions of the adulterous, insofar as self-deprecation and conflicting feelings and beliefs. A very human play.

Lams and Foster fell short of a naturalistic performance. Oftentimes, their characterisations were robotic and their deliveries were overemphatic. This got much better as the play went on, but the beginning was particularly dreadful. Moments of intimacy, on the whole, felt rather natural, though a few kisses were quite visibly hesitant or artificial. Lams also had the tendency towards the beginning of the performance to accompany every line with a gesticulation to represent the emotion behind it. This was very rudimentary and should have been left in initial rehearsals when trying to figure out her character. I will say, however, that these actors were very good at assuming different positions within the performance space during blackouts, making little to no sound whatsoever. However, with the length of the scenes being so short, these contrasts were often quite hectic to watch – this is an editorial/directorial issue, though. 

This performance claims to be "ultra-contemporary", but besides its set and cinematic scene structure, there is not much of a contemporary quality to it. Though expansive, the set (Max Johns) for this performance was quite minimalist, consisting of a king-sized mattress covered in pillows. This was a good metaphor for their copious sex and promiscuity, their lives and lifestyle consumed, more and more towards the end, by their extra-marital affair. However, it did demand a lot of imagination from the audience in places, in order to understand the topography of the house and to consider the space as liveable and stocked. Whilst this demand was somewhat eased by the dialogue, and props like the fake blood, it became particularly difficult to read moments such as when Nadia dances on the table – is she still dancing on the table when she dances later on? – or when she finds the third mobile phone in the finale of the performance. The audience is also shown that the front window is on the opposite side of the bed to the lights, yet the front door is on the same side as them. I would advise a more careful consideration of the logistics of the house's topography.

Sound (designed by David Gregory) and lighting (designed by Jess Bernberg) made for an easier reading of the house. Sound was facilitative, edited well and blended in seamlessly and realistically with the action on stage. The lighting made for a sense of airiness and ethereality. It was a brave decision to have fluorescent tubes as the primary lighting source for this performance, having no direct or blunt significance to it, especially with the varying colours not representative of mood or tone. However, I found it to be evocative of the sort of utopian getaway which this space signified for these characters. This was most conveyed in moments of inebriation or euphoria where Daniel and Nadia would stumble through them, causing them to sway gently as though wind chimes. I also thought it was interesting to have their arguments or conflicts in the same area as this lighting, causing the ideal utopia to confront the painful reality and ramifications of their doings. 

“Not an overly imaginative performance but one which rings true of human desire.”

Photography credit: to Helen Murray.


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