If an affair becomes a comfortable fantasy, how do you react when reality sets in? Rust skims the surface and hints and deeper complexity. Daniel Perks reviews:

“You have to trust someone Daniel”. You wonder why Daniel (Jon Foster) doesn’t trust his wife, why Nadia (Claire Lams) avoids her husband. But here the two are with a mutual secret, their consensual affair taking place on a stage covered in Max Johns’ pillow design.

Rust Assembly Roxy
Jon Foster & Claire Lams (image courtesy of Helen Murray)

It’s a comforting and inviting environment. Yet Rust hints at something sinful, the kind of moreish vice that you want to tease out and prolong as much as possible. Kenny Emson’s storyline has a familiar structure – a two-hander with natural chemistry and an interesting narrative. But unlike its subject matter, the production lacks danger.

Each well-defined character maintains their illicit activities by establishing rules:

  • Don’t talk about them (that’s the other halves, the respective families) – they don’t exist here.
  • Never say the L word.

And yet, rules are made to be broken when feelings contaminate the agreement.

Rust Assembly Roxy
Claire Lams & Jon Foster (image courtesy of Helen Murray)

Through Emson’s script and Eleanor Rhode’s insightful direction, you see these complex emotional webs most clearly in the second half of Rust. While Lams consistently delivers the more intriguing performance, the vulnerabilities and cracks that Foster unveils have the most impact.

The fantasy is where you want to live. It’s a happy lie that consumes your every waking thought.

But reality is the truth. And it tastes bitter.

Rust Assembly Roxy

When you notice that the characters in Rust enter this devilish cycle of sin, remorse, separation and desire, you appreciate how Emson’s script insightfully captures such desires. The observations are detailed, but also predictable. You can anticipate how this affair will end as soon as it begins, and as such, you don’t feel the impact that this show deserves.

While well-conceived, Rust lacks risk or drama. Evasion is easy when no one is looking. But remove the danger of being caught and you lose the surprise that such a narrative craves.

★★★☆☆

Rust is now playing at Assembly Roxy until 25 August 2019, before transferring to the HighTide Festival in Aldeburgh on 10-15 September 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.