Available online via the Traverse, this is a searingly hot take on obsession and mental anguish which features a paddling pool and a whole lot of mustard. At one point, O’Connor’s body is smeared with the yellow stuff, a physical manifestation of the pain her character Eva feels following the breakdown of a destructive relationship.
As Eva was growing up, mustard was the only English thing her devout mother would allow in their rural Irish home. Now Eva is escaping her mother and when she meets an English professional cyclist with a palatial Crouch End house (courtesy of his mum and dad) she falls in love and stays. Until she is rejected and ejected.
Eva O'Connor in Mustard. Photos by Jassy Earl.
O’Connor is great on the dancing possibilities of attraction and sex and how when you have just met someone there is a “window of time when everything between you and a stranger is unblemished.” But there are three in this relationship: Eva, the cyclist and his bike. Four, if you count mustard, towards which Eva’s thoughts are always tugged in moments of stress and emotional crisis. “When there’s nothing left to lose you set yourself on fire.”
The writing is always sharp as a knife to the heart, and I suspect in live performance the way that O’Connor—a highly watchable, spikey and coiled presence—slowly and methodically creates her internal world on stage with a washing line, cotton cloths and pool would be particularly effective. This is a show that needs intimacy, that cries out for Eva to meet and hold the audience’s eye. The filmed version—recorded at the Dublin fringe—doesn’t quite cut the mustard. The experience is overly distanced.
It’s a pity because this is a brave, honest show that doesn’t shirk anything as it explores Eva’s compunction to transform emotional trauma into physical hurt, capturing in 60 intense minutes all the “searing yellow pain of it, the shame of it.”
Mustard is available online until Mon 14 Dec.