top of page

Still Life with Onions | Baron's Court Theatre

Still Life With Onions, a new-old play written by Robert Burbidge, premiered last night at

the Barons Court Theatre, with five performances set to take place. The play couldn’t have

happened in a better venue, considering the theatre’s rich history and cultural importance

within London’s theatre pub scene.

Off the finish of the last big war, the central characters find themselves in a poky flat

building where poverty is dripping off the walls, the survival instinct has well and truly

kicked in, and the one thing that unites them is the excitement in sourcing a singular onion

for their stew supper.

The plot was a strong message on the power of resilience on the backdrop of a country in

ruins, with the characterisation of these four people steeped in horror of what they have all

witnessed individually as humans, and collectively as a country. Each performer stepped in

to their roles without flinching, and all convincingly portrayed grief-stricken war survivors. It

felt to be a fitting story to follow against the backdrop of our planet’s current landscape.

As a whole, the space that these characters occupied matched closely with the interior of

the theatre itself, making it to feel like an immersive experience. However what felt a little

jarring from the experience was the lack of soundproofing, meaning that the joyous

customers in the pub above could be heard, which felt mismatched to the story playing

out. The cast took full advantage of what little space was available, and used props and

furniture meaningfully, to convey the story without it feeling over-rehearsed. In particular,

the use of lighting to cast a shadow of a window towards the end, allowed us to share the

hopefulness of Johnsy and Sue in discovering the single leaf that survived the storm.

A stand-out performance comes from Naomi Bowman, playing brash Londoner and rabble rouser Sue, carried her role effortlessly in sewing together elements that felt oppositional. Her positivity amidst sheer loss and trauma, held plenty in delivering a rousing performance.

Still Life was written and paced to a degree that allowed the onlookers to take in the

historical relevance, whilst exploring a less familiar story. It integrated into the wider history

of World War II without feeling forced or dramatised. All of the characters were battling with

very real problems and risks during this time, David going to Germany to support the Post

War clean-up, Sue struggling with employment as the Veterans returned. Johnsy painting

to escape the horrors of this reality, and Behrman being mounted with prejudice and anger

from his heritage.

For those wishing to disentangle their own thoughts about war and its impact on country’s

peoples, this is the place to do it. This play is a necessary character study into how conflict

shapes us in the aftermath. Still Life with Onions runs at Baron's Court Theatre until 16th March, for more tickets and information, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Brian Wong


bottom of page