Rhubarb and Custard follows the story of Eloise, a young woman unpacking her grief over her late father, moments before his funeral.
There are many things Rhubarb and Custard does well, it is beautifully paced, its use of silence is perfectly controlled, the sense of a ticking clock shown through Eloise’s sideway glances is richly complex and of course the gorgeous music, both in composition and through playing is delightful and so emotional. These elements all come together to bring a rich, compelling and texture show. I could feel the audience taking in every morsel of information that came their way, and I too found myself leaning in as the story unfolded.
The writing of the show was beautiful, it felt very natural and I thought it built upon itself precisely. It’s clear the writer worked hard to leave the audience enough clues to paint the picture of Eloise’s dad, allowing us to make our own assumptions and wait for it to be confirmed. I think it worked around the complex topic of abuse so carefully, showing us the shades of grey between right and wrong. It also worked to show how relationships can be built and nurtured beyond words, with Eloise’s love for music being inherited from her father.
By the end, we see how Eloise’s tool becomes her language. She finds herself lacking the language to eulogise her father, knowing that words cannot capture the nuance of emotions she feels, therefore she chooses a song ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ to speak it instead. For me, this was the most touching part of the performance, the composition of ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ was breathtaking. It felt transportive, playful yet harsh. It an incredible metaphor for the topic of the play captured so incredibly with music.
The actor playing Eloise was incredible, her command of the stage felt authoritative and direct. It was wonderful to watch her facial expressions as she unravelled Eloise’s emotions. As the only person on stage she kept the pace of the showing moving well and her movements felt purposeful and succinct.
The only shortcoming of Rhubarb and Custard was the staging of it. I felt primarily this was down to the ‘stage’ itself, so to say, which was a room with a piano. Due to this there was no opportunity to play with a lighting design, a sound design and so on. I understand the show and writing itself is stripped back and might not need a full production of sorts. However, without any production it felt more like an extended monologue than a one-woman show. Due to this, at times the show felt long, I wish there was a little more to see or more to evoke our senses. I’m not one for a complex set but I do think Rhubarb and Custard would benefit through scaling up their production as a whole.
Recommended Drink: I would pair Rhubarb and Custard with a negroni, often a cocktail I feel very nuanced about, is it sweet, is it bitter, is it nice or not? It strikes that feeing of delicious dissonance in your mouth.
Performances of Rhubarb and Custard are now concluded at Bloomsbury Festival. However, you can keep up with Stupid & Brave here.