The reading of Willi Richard’s play, recorded via Zoom, is now available to stream on BBC iPlayer.
Like so much that’s happening right now, it wasn’t meant to be this way. Following its premiere at London’s King’s Head Theatre in 2018, Rush was due to make its West End debut at Trafalgar Studios this month to coincide with Pride. This production was cast earlier this year, with rehearsals due to start in late March and then… well, we all know what happened next. Thankfully, instead of simply cancelling the show, the actors have recorded a reading of the play via Zoom. Directed by Joseph Winters, the 90-minute reading can now be streamed on BBC iPlayer.
The end product is the polar opposite of the large-scale productions you may have seen available to stream thus far – it’s very much a script reading, with each actor delivering their lines from their respective lockdown locations. For those who’ve not seen a play performed like this before, the format takes some getting used to and requires a lot more imagination – but the quality of the material and the delivery of the lines makes it a worthwhile endeavour for those who persevere.
Rush is a provocative comedy of manners, focusing on the story of a gay love triangle. Rupert Everett plays Man, an older gentleman in a long-term open relationship; Daniel Boyd plays attractive younger man Lad, who is his lover; and Omari Douglas plays Boy, a youthful and idealistic hairdresser who has just started dating Lad after meeting him on Grindr. It may take a few moments to get used to the format but after that the performance flows remarkably well, especially given the actors haven’t rehearsed together and that Douglas is the only returning cast member from the original run.
It touches on some interesting themes. Love, romance, infidelity are all present and correct, but what makes this so intriguing is the intergenerational perspectives surrounding what it means to be gay. Man grew up at a time when it was dangerous to come out as gay and lived through the AIDS crisis; these experiences have shaped his outlook, resulting in him choosing to live and love differently. Boy, on the other hand, has grown up proudly and confidently gay, and assumes queer people can have everything that straight people have too – including a romanticised, monogamous, conventional relationship.
Their clashes are particularly exciting to watch, as is the play’s device of keeping us guessing throughout which direction Lad will ultimately pursue. Rush has a smart script, full of intelligent one-liners and clever observations, and it’s all put together remarkably well given the current limitations. It probably goes without saying that we’d really love to see how the text translates to the stage, but this reading is a perfectly enjoyable medium to keep us entertained while the theatres remain closed.
GAY TIMES gives Rush – 4/5
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