Eva O’Connor walks barefoot on to the Peacock stage of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre carrying two big jute supermarket bags. Looking directly outwards, she begins her brutally honest exposé of the effects on her character E of the break-up of an imbalanced affair.
E already has an unusual way of dealing with anxiety. It is self-harm using mustard. When she meets and falls intensely in love with a polar opposite obsessive professional cyclist, who claims that cycling saved his life, she swaps her addiction of yellow mustard for a guy who sought a yellow jersey.
She moves in to his 3 storey mansion in Crouch End where, seeing his bike collection suspended from the hall ceiling, notes that there’s “…more money above my head than I’ve seen in my life.” When, while still deeply in his thrall, she learns of his betrayal and that what she inferred as love was only a passing fancy for him, that reality makes her heart drop like a stone down a gully.
Both physically and emotionally exposed on stage, O’Connor describes the gut wrenching heartbreak and raw emotions of her vulnerable character. From her incredulous joy at her new lover’s fierce physicality to the desperation of dealing with the loss of him in her life, her performance is visceral.
With the refrain of “My mind goes to mustard” woven through the text, her words are stingingly lyrical and piercingly poetic with lines like her wish “to collapse in to the lean of him” at a time when she should know it’s over but still craves him, and when his touch is “relief like morphine”.
Under the direction of Hidegard Ryan, who runs the company Sunday’s Child with O’Connor, the piece is perfectly choreographed notably as E’s words are delivered in timed turns with the noise of a series of mustard jars being put on the floor and the plops of the yellow paste dropping on a paddling pool.
O’Connor, who was part of the Traverse Young Writers Group and was selected for Traverse 50 in 2014, is in a way is coming home with this commanding piece of work. The depth of desperation that she brings to it is palpable, making Mustard as sharp and pungent as the spice that gives it its name.
Mustard is presented by Dublin’s Fishamble along with Sunday’s Child, who brought My Name is Saoirse, another superb one woman play by O’Connor, to the Assembly Hall for the 2015 Fringe, leaving a firm impression on audiences.
Mustard was a Scotsman Fringe First Award winning play when it premiered at Summerhall in 2019 and is now available digitally on Traverse 3 from 1st till 14th December 2020
Tickets: £8 with a limited number available at £1 tickets for those on government benefits
Age suitability 14+