Rust is an immersive theatre show that takes place among the rooms and grounds of the Alliance Française de Melbourne. Once the story establishes itself, as various characters head off to different rooms or outside the audience are free to follow at their leisure.
Set against a backdrop of war, there are broad brushstrokes to the plot – locked drawers, hidden code books, collaborators and the resistance – that initially draw attention, but it’s the emotional arcs that prove the most compelling.
In the program notes, creator and co-writer Vaughn Rae states that an examination of Romeo & Juliet’s narrative and archetypes, along with a yearning for, “…More epic love stories representing in the LGBTQIA+ community,” are responsible for much of Rust’s genesis.
Indeed, obligation (both familial and societal), loyalty, duty drive much of the conflict and obstructions between two lovers – Renee Monet (Sarah Hartnell) and Juliette Cote (Liliana Dolton) and it’s their journey that soon becomes the engine of the overall story.
On the night I attended, the audience veered between tentative and determined in their interactions with this world. Some wrong turns or loitering were either gently corrected by the crew or admonished loudly, in amusing fashion, by the cast in character.
As the main story flowed, sometimes you found yourself caught, as some characters were, in eddies of a sort, before being dragged inexorably back downstream. Small touches – a sketch tucked inside a book, old family photos – were scattered about if you were brave enough to pick them up.
Despite the daylight outside, Directors Alice Darling, Trudi Boatwright and Renee Palmer and their cast do lovely work in drawing you in. The opening moments as Juliette’s mother, Helene (Helen Hopkins) moves around the foyer is wonderfully unsettling in a way, as it establishes the sense that we are not back watching life happen, but rather the ghosts and echoes of it.
Time and decay will claim a lot of things, but Rust is a beautiful play that bravely states that some things will always endure.
Alliance Française de Melbourne, 51 Grey Street, St Kilda
Performance: Thursday 23 January 2020 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 9 February 2020
For more information, visit: www.tbctheatre.com for details.
Image: Rust – courtesy of TBC Theatre
Review: David Collins