Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition - Mustard
Eva O'Connor in Mustard. Image by Jassy Earl
Fifty Shades of Yellow
Sex and Cigarette Area Man make for a pained combination in Eva O'Connor's Mustard. In which an eponymous Eva walks a tight rope of infatuation, lured by a lover with beautiful skin. Unable to see what's in front her, or unable to break free, her self-loathing keeps her stuck there, or coming back for more. A tale of a woman scorned and a woman scarred, Mustard does heartache by the numbers as one woman struggles to find a way to walk on the earth again. Weighted and ponderous at times, Mustard can lag for reliving more than living its tale. But with Eva O'Connor being just that little bit spellbinding, you're very quickly entranced.
Not that it’s all plain sailing. O'Connor's tautly structured script often loses momentum for dragging its descriptive feet. Yet, at its best, O'Connor's tale of an English cyclist and a not so good, lapsed Irish catholic girl finds her writing on the borders of poetry. Her word sensitive scenes are as much stanzas as episodes, the opening sequence showing all the power of an incantation. One in which Eva reveals her addiction to mustard, and to one man. The arrogant, English cyclist who has asked her to come back to him from rural Ireland. Quickly established, the bulk of the tale is taken up with remembering all that went before their reunion; their first meeting, the ugly sex, the mustard, and her strained relationship with her religious mother.
Eva O'Connor in Mustard. Image by Eimear Reilly
Performatively, events being relived, or remembered, can rob the images of some of their intensity. Hildegard Ryan's direction keeps pace moving, but compositionally the stage images come to read like clear signposts for what's up ahead, which often arrive like a bus you've been expecting. Yet it's the mustard at the heart of this sandwich that gels everything together into something extremely tasty. That being O'Connor's hugely invested performance, in which Eva proves to be far richer than the events she speaks of. All the more impressive given Eva's immediacy being dulled a little on account of narrative distance.
With its repeated colonial references, O'Connor's tale of the selfish Englishman and the Irish girl from religious, rural Ireland is sure to provide those inclined with a welter of potential readings. Yet at its heart Mustard is still a tale of girl standing before a boy asking him to love her. With a twist or two. You may not love it all of the time, but you're sure to enjoy it. And sure to love O'Connor who cuts the mustard, and then some, with considerable style.
Mustard by Eva O'Connor presented by Fishamble: The New Play Company in association with Sundays Child, runs at the Peacock Stage of The Abbey Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition until September 19.