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The Theatreguide.London Review

Bush Theatre     Summer 2019

Kenny Emson's play is an experiment in escape from reality whose conclusion is that the outside world and our connections to it will sooner or later re-assert themselves.

Daniel and Nadia, each married to another and with children, rent a flat for joyous once-a-week sexual assignations, the one cardinal rule of their affair being that no mention or thought of the rest of their lives be allowed to intrude.

But over a period of three years outside events and a sort of creeping domesticity threaten to turn this idyll into an alternative marriage resembling rather than denying their other-six-days lives.

Rust wears its sources lightly, but the fingerprints of Harold Pinter can be seen on it, notably from Betrayal in the picture of the flat and the inescapable impulses toward domesticity, but also from The Lover with its exploration of the eroticism of alternative personalities.

And those with long memories of American rom-coms will recall Bernard Slade's Same Time Next Year, about a couple's annual adulterous reunions.

Emson's play is much closer in tone to Slade's than Pinter's. Director Eleanor Rhode keeps things light through most of its 75-minute length, with the conclusion more rueful than tragic.

Claire Lams brings a perky young-Felicity-Kendal sexiness to Nadia in the happy scenes and touching fragility to the darker moments. The only points that don't quite ring true come when she turns out to be the harder-edged and stronger of the couple.

Jon Foster captures Daniel's recurring feeling of being off-balance as thoughts and emotions he's not meant to be having in this setting keep intruding.

Another writer with other intentions might have explored the emotional and psychological implications of this story more fully. But just as designer Max Johns's set made up of a pile of cushions suggests a children's playroom, Kenny Emson's play is more interested in enjoying the fun while it lasts.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Rust - Bush Theatre 2019

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