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Mustard review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘poetic monologue about heartbreak and condiments’

Eva O’Connor in Mustard at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Jassy Earl

Eva O’Connor’s solo show straddles the line between dramatic monologue and performance art.

While clubbing in south London, a young woman meets a professional cyclist. They click. They have an intense sexual connection. But when he breaks it off, something in her breaks. She develops a compulsion, to be engulfed by mustard, to slather the stinging stuff on her skin.

Even when she returns home to Ireland, the desire remains. Her world turns yellow. This is mustard as metaphor, for compulsive behaviour and the way rejection and heartbreak can upend a person’s world, but in Hildegard Ryan’s production, it’s also made literal.

As O’Connor speaks she inflates a small paddling pool. Into this she empties bottle after bottle of Colman’s. Her words are punctuated by the slop and plop of mustard dropping on to plastic.

Then she sinks into this yellow puddle, toes squelching; she coats her body in the stuff, becoming an ambulant Coldplay track in the process. In this way an emotional experience is rendered stickily physical and visceral.

The writing is appealingly spicy and has real poetic momentum, and O’Connor’s delivery of her own material is accomplished, but it feels like the bodily business, the mustard stuff, could have been pushed further. The mess is not allowed to spread beyond a neat strip of white paper. Ironically it’s all just a bit too clean.

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Propulsive, poetic monologue about heartbreak, recovery and condiments