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Fringe Review: Rust - The Musical @ theSpace

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Mental health is a topic that is slowly making its way into the spotlight and yet still does not get talked about enough.

‘Rust – The Musical’ has - through its beautifully written songs, engaging acting and thought-provoking dialogue - not only given their audience at the Fringe food for thought but also shows the many struggles linked to recovery that are unseen by many. It touched on so many topics, all within the space of an hour.

Image courtesy of Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society

At the beginning of the show, the audience is introduced to Evie, a shy student entering rehab at the Fairwater centre for an eating disorder and self-harm. The first song already hits heartstrings by the character singing about facing "monster in the mirror" and asking “Why am I still here?”.

It quickly became apparent that the cast of Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society was extremely talented - the emotions portrayed were raw and engaging. 

The audience gets introduced to further characters all battling different types of addiction, including alcoholism and drug misuse. This variety in characters underlines the bitter truth that addiction shows no discrimination. It affects parents desperately trying to hide their addiction from children, people with underlying chronic illnesses, the fun-loving drag queen, the grade-A student and the rebellious teen.

Not only did the characters portray the struggles people with addictions face on the road to recovery, but they also all portrayed society's warped image of what addiction truly is. The musical touches on the different niches of an addict being a ‘beautiful tragedy', mental illness being just ‘a phase' or a by-product of one's personality, and the idea of ‘Hollywood rehab' being a quick in-and-out affair.

If what the characters were going through was not shocking enough, the ‘reality check' that the psychiatrist brought undoubtedly was. The actress directly addressed the audience with harsh truths about the statistics of mental health as well as the on-going problem of patients falling through the cracks of health services until it is too late.

And while all the above might sound terribly down-hearted and severe, the performance certainly was not. There was laughter, witty jokes and dancing. The songs were a perfect variety of beautiful, heart-warming pieces – such as the absolutely stunning rendition of the ‘Serenity Prayer' or the patients singing about not being ill, but instead being "rusted, battered and bruised" – as well as loud and striking performances – such as one of the patients throwing a chair and singing ‘Meditate on that you bitch' towards one of the councillors.

What most certainly also deserves a special mention is the ending and what it was: It was not perfect. It was not all happiness and rainbows, but it displayed what recovery really is - a process. One that not all make.

By the end of it all, there were standing ovations, tears and people reaching over to hug their loved ones in the audience.

‘Rust – The Musical’ deserves all the praise it has been given so far. I am confident that its message will be with anyone lucky enough to be part of one of the many sold-out shows for a long time. 

'Rust' runs till August 24th, and more information can be found here.




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