Nadia and Daniel are about to sign the lease on a new flat. They’re both excited and a bit nervous as they wonder out loud to each other: what fake name they should use to sign the lease? It’s immediately clear that this is no sweet love story. Nadia and Daniel are both married to other people and are leasing this flat so they can continue their affair more discreetly. It’s a hard sell, asking the audience to symphatise with these characters who are, by most people’s definition, not good people. Because we have to symphatise with them, at least a little bit, if we’re to care about the way their story unfolds.
Rust is a superbly performed, well written piece
Taking place exclusively in this flat, as Nadia and Daniel continue their illicit affair throughout the years, Kenny Emerson’s two-hander follows the ups and downs of the relationship as the two characters try their best to live their lives according to their own rules (handily typed up and printed out by Nadia, in bold, underlined). For the most part it progresses as most relationships do, from the heady, lustful first months, to the question of when and how to say ‘the L-word’, to the inevitable quiet nights in watching true crime documentaries on Netflix. But as much as they try to pretend, Nadia and Daniel aren’t in a ‘normal’ relationship and the pressure of keeping the two sides of their lives separate soon begins to take its toll.
Nadia is clearly the more successful one but she’s also the more dissatisfied one, terrified of her life becoming “boring”, relying on sex and alchohol to help her escape the everyday. She insists on keeping their children and spouses out of it, preferring to pretend she’s in a different world with Daniel; she instead engages in role-play and fantasies instead of feelings and responsibilities. It’s a refreshing twist on the traditional gender stereotypes usually found in these sort of stories and in the capable hands of actor Claire Lams, Nadia is in equal measure: cool, cocky and cruel. Her sparring partner Daniel is a bit more difficult to figure out. This down-to-earth clock repairman seems to have stumbled into a situation that is too much for him to handle and while we understand Nadia’s motivation to embark on this affair, Daniel genuinely seems to love his life and his family. Jon Foster is a very likeable performer and makes Daniel’s everyman charm so evident, that the audience can’t help but fall for him too. The two actors’ chemistry is palpable and keeps the tricky premise afloat.
With echoes of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and Patrick Marber’s Closer, Rust is tightly written, with zippy, clever dialogue and plenty of spark. But it doesn’t seem too interested in questioning its characters morality or examining the effect their actions have on the people around them. So ultimately, the message seems to be: people can be shitty. And while that is undoubtedly true, it’s not likely to leave a lasting impression. Even so, Rust is a superbly performed, well written piece well worth seeing for any fans of classical theatre.