The mustard gathers in a globule on Eva O’Connor’s chin and drips to the floor. She scoops up another handful and lumps it back on to her skin. Starting its life as a long poem and developing into an hour-long monologue, O’Connor’s intense, condiment-fuelled show tells a story of heartbreak and obsession, with most of the production budget spent in the supermarket.
In burgundy sweats, O’Connor holds Tesco shopping bags filled with glass jars. She plays E, a young Irish woman lost in London, falling in love with unsympathetic men who stamp on her sense of self-worth.
While she unravels E’s story, O’Connor readies the stage. The jars of stinging yellow mustard are unscrewed and their innards are emptied into a paddling pool, where she lathers it over her body. Mustard is E’s unusual choice of coping mechanism. As she is repeatedly trodden down, the sauce becomes her addiction, and a representation of her grief and anxiety.
Under Hildegard Ryan’s direction, O’Connor’s performance is strong and confident. The story jumps between vivid scenes of heady nightclubs and empty beds. O’Connor’s descriptions are fleshy and poetic; sinewy, clammy, though there are shards of the story – the nods to Anglo-Irish relations, the lack of control, the revenge – that want to be pushed deeper.
The solo play holds strong storytelling elements, but for a show that slathers hot mustard on a nearly naked body, it strangely isn’t sharp enough. O’Connor wipes the yellow muck off her arms and stomach and finishes the story clean. Mustard offers a strong solo performance, but by leaping into the muck and tang and strangeness of itself more, it might find a stronger bite.