[THEATRE REVIEW] CUTTING ONIONS @ The MC Showroom Review (2024)

How do you know when it is best to end a relationship?

That question is highlighted and spotlighted in the compelling and highly creative new work Cutting Onions.

A young couple has just moved into fresh digs.

Their home is quite spacious, with a good size kitchen and a large, if overgrown, backyard. 

There are still unpacked boxes everywhere, which she goes about unpacking, also cleaning, tidying and cooking, while he is at work.

He looks forward to seeing her every evening and is forever telling her how beautiful she is … and yet she is clearly distressed.

The play’s opening scene is her crying while cutting onions and the tears are not drawn from slicing the vegetable.

She is struggling to find employment … and, overall, with her new environment, some distance away from her mother.

In phone calls, her mother reinforces what a good man her partner is and, yet, she remains ill at ease.

He tells her to take her time to find a job because money isn’t an issue, but there is more to her state of mind than that.

She is angst riddled. He is no longer on the same page as her.

They begin arguing over little things and some bigger issues, like a decision to start a family, which he just presumed she would buy into.

He starts shutting her down and out when she tries to get him to understand.

Suddenly, their bright future is looking bleak and then it becomes a matter of whether the relationship is worth persevering with.

Put another way, can the ship be righted and, even if it could be, is that, indeed, the most desirable outcome?

I can’t speak highly enough about the imaginative flair involved in realising the emotional heart of Cutting Onions.

It has been written, produced and is directed by Nadia Sirninger Rankin.

The staging, which involves technical design from Rohan Dimsey, is oh so clever –something I won’t forget in a hurry.

Without wishing to spoil the many surprises, let me just say interactivity with household objects and appliances, and puppetry are among them.

There are many scene changes. They involve three dextrous stagehands to ensure all progresses quickly and seamlessly during short blackouts.

Make no mistake, this is a thought-provoking work that deals with gender, mental health and self-harm, and references sexual abuse.

Julia Slater-Allan does a fine job in an emotionally taxing role, switching gears to reflect the narrative. She readily reflects just how stuck and caught out her character is.

As his part requires, Sam Corr has mastered the art of manipulating a situation so that he feels like he is the aggrieved party. The endless cycle of apologies and soothing words become smothering.

While Cutting Onions remains visually arresting, prudent pruning (some situational reinforcement scenes could have been done away) and quickening of pace wouldn’t have gone astray.

Still, as an original piece about empowerment and systemic inequities, it is well worth a look.

Eighty-five minutes without interval, it reflects endemic societal issues and constraints with some mighty artistic endeavour. It is on at The MC Showroom until 23rd June, 2024.

Review by Alex First Photography by Nadia Sirninger Rankin