Eva O’Connor’s one-woman show about heart break and madness is crammed with life, wit and tragedy.
A packed piece of polished, poignant prose, Eva O'Conner's Mustard gets under your skin and does not leave.
O’Connor’s E has just been dumped by the man of her dreams. Her tiny frame enters stage, hurt, angry and jealous. Eva O’Conner precedes to produce a stand out solo performance of the Fringe. The cravenness space of Summerhall’s Bruford theatre is filled with E. Every corner of the vastly empty stage pulses with her simple story about love, heart break and self-worth, which oozes with pain at each turn.
Complex characterisation helps to create E, a jealous, hateful, distraught but undeniably likeable character. A break-up from a rich boy ‘so cool it hurts’ leads E into a tumbling cycle of revenge. The audience empathises with her increasing instability, as she abandons rationality, clinging onto the last remaining straws of her sanity; ‘I go to bed night after night with mustard on my mind and madness in my bones.’
O’Conner’s words dance through the audience, propelled across the room by her rich, powerful voice. The mastery of language at play in Mustard is a wonder to listen to. It reminded me of novels like Sally Roony’s Normal People or Eimear Mcbride’s A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing. The physicality of the play compliments the breakdown in linguistic form, as O’Conner’s E is torn apart by her own insecurities and her ex. In Mustard, O’Conner has created a form that fits her story, like mustard fits pastrami.
The urgency that comes from O’Connor’s delivery of her own words energises the often-tired break-up narrative. Questions of national identity, pride and Irish-Anglo tension underpin the reported relationship in Mustard. The central image of mustard, ‘the only English import in our home,’ emphasises E’s painfully hot anger.
Although the imagery of mustard is effective at times, it is over used. E’s physicality warps under the weight and flavour of the mustard in a moment of theatrical wonder, but some of the overtly metaphorical use of mustard feels like wasted time in an otherwise packed piece of polished, poignant prose.
Mustard a memorable one hander this Fringe; a play that gets under your skin and does not leave. I only hope that O’Connor is able to get the thick yellow condiment off her skin after the show.