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Review of Kenny Emson’s Rust at the Bush Theatre

Claire Lams (Nadia) in 'Rust' at the Bush Theatre. photo Helen Murray
Claire Lams (Nadia) in ‘Rust’ at the Bush Theatre. photo Helen Murray

There’s a promise made in any bed, John,” says Proctor’s wife in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and, in Rust, a huge divan, covered in tens of plump soft colour cushions, is the centrepiece for Kenny Emson’s touching 75 minute duologue exploring the intentions, complications, and after-effects of extra-marital affair. And as tensions and personal stakes rise, designer Max Johns’s simple but effective set becomes increasing disordered, leaving us inferring meaning behind every misplaced cushion, pillow fight, and fallen feather.

The Bush Theatre’s small, 50-seater studio space amplifies the emotional intensity created by Emson’s acute and searingly fast-paced dialogue, handled with aplomb by Jon Foster, as endearing and witty man-child Daniel, and Claire Lams as Nadia – a business executive mother seeking to free herself from the socio-normative shackles of her domestic life. The play’s success owes much to the razor-sharp and acerbic delivery of the two actors, and the authentic chemistry between them.

Rust interrogates the couple’s relationship from the point at which they rent a studio flat for their Monday night trysts, which becomes, for a time, their own small Eden. Their satisfaction with the arrangement, however, is so complete that it soon reeks of hubris, and they make 11 rules to clarify and govern their affair: “11… one better than God!” they exclaim. Quickly, though, the rules begin to get broken, emotional boundaries become blurred, and the prosaicness of the outside world starts to intrude.

With the proliferation of online dating apps, never has it been easier to find a temporary escape from the domestic drudgery of a marriage or long-term relationship. Rust, then, relevantly probes whether such encounters can ever be baggage and consequence-free.

4 stars

Review by Ben Miller

Rule number eleven: We don’t talk about them. Not here. They don’t exist here.’
Nadia and Daniel have a secret. In fact, they have quite a few. They’ve just signed on the dotted line for a studio flat. Under a pseudonym, naturally – Mr and Mrs White.

After years of school pick-ups, TV takeaways, and the day to day drudgery of married life, this is their chance to wipe the slate clean. But as much as they try and re-define the rules, and themselves, the outside world is closing in. Ultra-contemporary, sexy and funny, Rust pushes the boundaries of trust, love and lust to the limit.

Presented by Bush Theatre and HighTide
Written by Kenny Emson
Directed by Eleanor Rhode
Designed by Max Johns
Lighting Design by Jess Bernberg
Sound Design by David Gregory
Cast – Jon Foster and Claire Lams

26 June – 27 July at the Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, London, W12 8LJ


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