BWW Review: RHUBARB GHETTO, VAULT Festival
Billy (Damian Lynch) and Scarlet (Izabella Urbanowicz) meet in a damp underpass covered in graffiti. He is involved in gang crime; she is the mother of their 15-year-old son Alfie. In a London where the tunnel acts as a partition between luxury living and poverty, the characters come to terms with how their relationship has changed through the years, gentrification, and the innate violence of Billy's lifestyle.
Rhubarb Ghetto - written and directed by Mark Heywood - swings between being a gripping drama and a repetitive mantra. As they discuss their clandestine matters, the conversations quickly turn to politics and the state of the city. While the addresses are clever and sharp, the connections between topics aren't too clear and the rhythm of new information fed to the audience often falls short.
Although the core idea is quite dark, Heywood's script isn't without humour and his figures find the spirit for digressions and witty remarks among the substantial social critique and personal strife. The exchanges between Lynch and Urbanowicz are brutal as they cut to the chase with accusations and recriminations. Toughened by their environment, they are the product of a failing system and general lack of support.
Even though the director's solution to the visual inaction of his story is to have them walk rather aimlessly, the actors are outstanding. Lynch's delivery is particularly exceptional as he serves as the instigator of most subject changes and refuses to let Scarlet in on the facts. The actress, while severely impacted by the overly active direction, is touching in her projection of feral motherly love.
Ultimately, Rhubarb Ghetto would benefit from a longer running time to expand the material and maximise its potential. Heywood's characters are compelling and perceptive in their invective against politics and each other, they just need a bit more space to let it sink in.