Theatre review: Mustard, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Mustard, Summerhall (Venue 26)
Mustard, Summerhall (Venue 26)
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The man of her dreams has dropped her, again, and her mind’s gone to mustard.

Mustard, Summerhall ****

It starts with a grimy South London encounter by the side of the scummy Thames, he’s a racing cyclist who sees a spark in her, he’s got a scar like uncooked salmon, and she wants to ride him silly. Then he starts to behave in a fashion that drives her mad.

The playwright and performer Eva O’Connor’s writing in this one-woman show, the story of a girl named E, is so scarring and funny, so laden with jealousy and hate and wickedness, you have to take time away and breath out, then pick it up a few verses later.

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The stagecraft is starkly simple, the set could be a work of conceptual art, but delicious and shocking to watch, if not to eat.

E is harsh and vulnerable and cynical all at once, while her mother is wonderfully infuriating, in an Irish home where mustard, in all its glorious potted forms, was the only English import.

The patriarchy, young and old, is getting it in the neck a bit at the moment, I’m told. Mustard is made about the boy but far from simple, or even one-sided; E turns on herself, then turns on him, and manages to be sexy, and smeary, dishing out revenge cold, with a bit of yellow stuff.

An award-winning writer and actor, O’Connor, from Ogonnelle, County Clare, was at Summerhall last year with Maz and Bricks.

What a privilege to see this at the outset of the festival with just a dozen people in one of Summerhall’s best spaces. When you have friends coming to the Fringe this year, and asking to see a circus show, tell them if you want to see a bit of real theatre, go see Mustard.

TIM CORNWELL

Until 25 August