Friday, July 1

Rush – BBC iPlayer

Writer, Willi Richards’s first play, Rush was to have opened in June at Trafalgar Studios 2 following a successful two week run in 2018 at London’s King’s Head Theatre. Although COVID-19 has, for the moment, denied Rush its West End run it is now streaming on BBC iPlayer as part of their Culture In Quarantine series in the form of an online script reading.

The play explores the dynamics of a gay love triangle involving Man (Rupert Everett), Lad (Daniel Boyd) and Boy (Omari Douglas). Lad is in a relationship with Boy but at the same time engaged in an affair with the older Man who is himself one half of a civil partnership. Lad, as the link between the two other men, brings them together. It ends with Lad revealing to camera the reasoning behind the decision as to which of them he decides to reject.

This talks of lies, love, class and the experience of life as a gay male from a generational viewpoint. Each of the three men has a different approach to their sexuality. Each is prepared to take different steps to achieve their needs in a relationship. As the characters reveal more of themselves the sympathy of the viewer constantly shifts from one to another.

The three actors who appear in this had not met or rehearsed with each other prior to filming, during which each was based in their own lockdown location. Boyd and Douglas had already been cast in their roles when Trafalgar Studios announced cancellation, Douglas having appeared in the 2018 production. The role of Man had not been assigned when lockdown came into force. Rupert Everett, who was invited purely to play the latter in the online version seems to become more at ease as it progresses, at his most effective in his scene with Boy. Boyd sensitively conveys Lad’s bravado and emotional confusion. Douglas clearly benefits from his previous experience of the play. All three offer compelling studies of their complex characters.

This is, even by the standards of the innovative new forms of theatrical entertainment the pandemic has produced, a somewhat raw but ultimately rewarding experience. Initial perceptions of artificiality hinder an immediate sense of involvement with it as one acclimatises to the performance style. After a while however the intense performances of the cast and Willi Richards’s astute and absorbing script has the audience in its grasp.

To achieve full engagement with this piece as presented is a challenge, but one worth taking.

Rush is currently streaming on BBC iPlayer until June 2021.

Reviewer: Chris Hughes

Reviewed: 7th July 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★