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  • Writer's pictureEstelle Luck


🎭 Still Life with Onions 

📍 Barons Court Theatre, 28a Comeragh Road, London, W14 9HR

🗓 Tuesday 12th March 2024



Still Life with Onions is a Rob Burbidge play set in the year after the end of the Second World War. It shows how despite the celebratory victory, the people of Britain were left to pick up the pieces – dealing with rations, loss, destruction, the new role of women and a notoriously bad winter. 

In the play we meet Joanna (Olivia Steele), a young artist trying to find work, her neighbour Sue (Naomi Bowman), who worked making ammunition’s during the war, Behrmann (Christopher Kouros), a German who moved to England just before war broke out and David (Kieran Dobson), a soldier who meets Joanna when she’s at her most vulnerable. 

The play is set in Joanna’s small and dingy studio in a block where all the neighbours seemingly are on top of one another. Despite this closeness, they’re lonely – all floundering from the loss they’ve suffered during the war and desperately seeking connection with others.

The importance of this connection building is creatively conveyed through food. Joanna has potatoes, Sue has beef and David has a onion – all of which they combine to make a stew. On their own, ingredients are bland but not when they are brought together, it’s a different story. 

As well as friendship, the play deals with interesting themes such as the prejudice towards German people living in England at this time, illness and malnutrition, loss and a sense of hopelessness. 

What I particularly liked, though, is how the play deals with art and creativity. Joanna is a painter who teaches Sue to draw. And Behrmann is also an artist. Art is seen as a way for the characters to make sense of themselves and this fragmented world in which they’re living. Being creative helps them to connect with and really see one another – as well as the snippets of beauty that surround them. I know it’s a different situation, but I found myself thinking back to the pandemic and how the government encouraged creatives to change careers and do something more science-focused. This play seems to comment on the restorative and transformative power of art and even goes as far as to suggest it can save lives.

There was lots I enjoyed about this play, but I did feel at times that it tried to deal with too many themes. And yet, having said that, there were also points where the scenes felt a little slow – especially earlier on in the play’s 80-minute run. 

While the dialogue was witty and clever, it sometimes felt a little unnatural. For me, this made some interactions feel a little stilted and made the emotional connections between the characters less authentic than they could have otherwise been.

On the whole, though, I feel this play has a lot of potential. Many stories about the war are set in the midst of the period of conflict, and I think there’s a lot to be said for honing in on the difficult period of history that followed. 

Estelle Luck

All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.

My ticket for this performance of Still Life with Onions was gifted by Barons Court Theatre who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.


Olivia Steele as Joanna; Naomi Bowman as Sue; Christopher Kouros as Behrmann; Kieran Dobson as David

RUNNING TIME (approx):

1 hour 20 minutes, with no interval


Themes of suicide

Barons Court Theatre has a focus on supporting emerging and early career artists, many of whom have come to the industry in non-traditional ways and who have limited networks in the UK.


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