Mustard @ Summerhall

Mustard is a stunning piece of performance art about heartbreak and mental health

Review by Ellen Davis-Walker | 09 Aug 2022
  • Mustard

In Eva O’Connor’s Mustard we meet a woman, known only as E, weighed down by shopping bags and a story to tell. Fresh off the boat and away from her Irish Evangelical Christian mother for the first time, she falls madly in love with a professional cyclist. As their relationship begins to unravel, we witness E’s descent into the throes of heartbreak and the depths of a mind that has become consumed by the shame, and pain, of her preferred coping mechanism: mustard.

Whilst the audience are left to guess what the significance of "the only worthy English import on an Irish table" might be, O’Connor’s powerful exploration of one woman’s struggle to grapple with her mental health has a universally raw edge in a post-lockdown age. Though it is ostensibly a play about heartbreak, Mustard is a poignant reminder of the crutches we cling to when the world is spinning out of control: how prolonged periods of grief seem to settle on our skin and linger there, like the traces of mustard E smears, unflinchingly, over her limbs.

Creative yet simple staging by director Hildegard Ryan allows Mustard to tread a defly-balanced line between monologue and playful performance art. O’Connor’s writing is as emotionally insightful as it is well-paced, peppered with caustic wit (including well-received quips about Anglo-Irish relations and rural sewing groups) and an almost poetic lyricism that will feel familiar to fans of her previous plays, including Maz and Bricks and My Name is Saoirse.

Three years on from its debut run, which won both the Scotsman First Fringe and Lustrum awards, Mustard remains a Fringe Festival must-see. It is both a triumphant tour de force and a timely reminder of the ways we can thread our lives back together in the wake of even the most searing sadness: one tentative stitch (and triumphant pedal) at a time.

Mustard, Summerhall (Main Hall), until 28 Aug (not 15, 22), 2.45pm, £10-13