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Review: RUST The Musical

This is five stars worth of musical not to be missed

Going into RUST, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Its array of five-star reviews and sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe certainly suggested that something impressive was to be anticipated.

However, I still found myself somewhat sceptical about the concept of a play concerning mental health – it would be a significant task for the cast convey to the audience the true gravity of mental illness.

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Photo credit: Helena Fox

However, my scepticism was very quickly blown out of the water. The story certainly does have dark turns, as is to be expected. However, it is also incredibly dynamic, with moments of hilarity, sadness, hope and shock. It was a complete rollercoaster of emotions. Indeed the music interwoven throughout the narrative reflects this and is both vibrant and solemn, fast and meandering, the composition of which is excellent and the lyrics ingenious – sometimes carrying humour, other times a heavier message.

The audience journeys with the new arrival, 20-year-old Evie, on her struggle to recovery over 28 days at the rehab centre. She is bombarded with emotions and doctors as well as her fellow patients and the audience watches as they all make the choice whether to keep fighting to survive, to be free of rust. Alcoholism, terror, tomatoes, a lot of smoking, tears and joy all build towards the oncoming leap of faith back into the wide wild world. The path is not going to be easy.

At times it feels as though Helena Fox and Geraint Owen (RUST’s creators) are playing with the audience, pulling them to the edge of their seats and when all seems to have settled again, shattering their expectations with jarring twists and bombshells that do well to hammer home the reality of mental health. Of course no musical can truly capture how it must feel to suffer from a mental illness, but RUST most certainly captures the audience's attention and raises issues of great importance in our society today.

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Photo credit: Helena Fox

RUST is in many ways an eye-opening performance, addressing and revealing mental illness in a form rarely seen, changing the perspective and shedding light on a subject that has only recently begun to be recognised as being of utmost importance in our daily lives. This musical’s crusade to bring mental illness to the public eye is certainly an honourable one.

The cast, as directed by Izzy Collie-Cousins, are absolutely fantastic. Their characters are all vastly different yet unfalteringly convincing as if you might indeed have met them once in passing. Some are bold and bright, others more subtle and their interactions are the machinery of the Musical, catalysing zingy humour whilst releasing waves of anger, fear and melody. The songs and the characters who perform them are so well matched that the display is seamless. All the songs are executed with such profession, that the resulting musical is rather extraordinary. The message of their stories, interwoven in rehab, is poignant – as is the overall motif of the musical.

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Photo credit: Helena Fox

Whilst trying to avoid a gushing review, I nevertheless believe that RUST is hands down the best of all the performances I have seen in Cambridge. It is a masterpiece of the stage and also conveys an important message masterfully, giving audiences plenty to think about. This is 5 stars worth of musical not to be missed!