Gush is a diamond in the rough. This well-timed piece takes a fresh approach by working with a conceit of discomfort – we the audience begin by awkwardly waiting for a play within a play to start. Abby Vicky-Russell ably plays Neil, its central character, who is propped up by a neutral stage manager as he explores the fallout of sexual assault.
Neil is a plumber from Yorkshire who is only too happy to leave his wife to answer an emergency call during their night on the town in London. We watch as Neil tries to make sense of the strange theatre set he finds himself in, as he sort of works to repair the leaking pipe that could burst at any moment – the dripping echoing the unspoken things that chip away at us at life.
Neil, it turns out, is a profound character but Gush does not give us the opportunity to fully explore his complexities. In the first act he’s reduced to broad stereotypes of a Northern workman who uses jargon to bamboozle clients at the mercy of whether he will carry out the necessary work. We need more time to understand him and his motivations beyond the cheap jokes that are made at his expense. Particularly because in the second act, the stellar potential of this piece is completely realised.
In it, Abby Vicky-Russell is incredible, delivering a painful-but-necessary-to-watch monologue. The writing is taut with perfectly placed words and silences that the audience can seamlessly piece together. To shine, this part of the play could be longer.
We feel Neil’s anguish as much as his daughter’s strength. What is not said is even more powerful than what is. There is no explanation offered for what is inexplicable. How does a father deal with his daughter’s life being torn apart? The third act abandons the plot entirely and could trust the audience more to understand what they have just seen. With more polish, Gush could become a piece to burst open those difficult conversations.
VAULT Festival 2023 runs Tuesday 24th January to Sunday 19th March, full listings and ticket information can be found here.
This review was written by a participant of the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme in partnership with Theatre Weekly. For more information about the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme, and all of our 2023 participants, please visit: https://vaultfestival.com/new-critics-programme/