Rust – Bush Theatre, London

Writer: Kenny Emson

Director: Eleanor Rhode

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

A play about a couple having an affair may not promise the most exciting evening at the theatre, and unfortunately Rust, a new two-hander at the Bush, only proves this. Despite some stellar acting, Rust has very little to report on the state of extramarital affairs.

In what may be the only twist in Kenny Emson’s script, the woman in this affair has more agency than the man. Nadia is a successful businesswoman, and balances work with motherhood. She often drinks a bottle of wine at lunchtime believing it to be a ‘job requirement’. She has enough money to pay in cash the rent on a flat where they meet every Monday. Daniel, on the other hand, fixes clocks for a living.

On the first Monday in their flat Nadia produces a contract: a list of ten rules that they must follow if their relationship is to last. The audience doesn’t learn all the rules, but over the course of the next 75 minutes, it seems that each one is broken. To invoke the title of the play, their relationship rusts.

The story may be familiar, but Claire Lams provides a spirited performance as Nadia. Always ready to wisecrack, Nadia is difficult to like and her independence comes across as cold and controlling. As Daniel, Jon Foster is passive, unambitious and idealistic. Their chemistry is solid but one can’t quite understand what Nadia sees in him. He’s seems as comfortable as a married life, one which she is escaping.

Best of all is Max Johns’ set, which features a mound of pastel-coloured pillows conjuring up the words ‘love nest’ but the couple declare, instead, that it’s their ‘fuck-pad’. Neon lights hang down at the back of the stage, sometimes (and sometimes not) mirroring the pinks and sky-blues of the pillows. David Gregory’s sound design underscores the tension between the two lovers as the outside world comes to threaten their seclusion.

With a bit of tinkering, the two actors could swap parts on occasion to interrogate gender roles and to challenge the audience’s expectations. This might make for conversation. At the moment Rust is too predictable, and the good acting can’t wholly cover up the thinnest of plots.

Runs until 27 July 2019 | Image: Helen Murray

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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