Writer: Eimear McBride
Adaptor and Director: Annie Ryan
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Life is never a simple, straightforward path, twists and turns threaten to derail plans and long-held dreams need constant revision.
It’s a shifting perspective that is hard to capture on the page, yet Eimear McBride’s award-winning novel captures the internal monologue of a woman from the womb to age 20. It’s a novel that may seem an unlikely candidate for the stage but Annie Ryan’s taught adaptation makes for compelling and intense viewing.
Performed by a solo actress on an almost bare stage across 80 uninterrupted minutes, we follow this unnamed Irish girl through a childhood full of pain, neglect and suffering. From child abuse at the age of 13, terminal illness and a domineering mother, the challenges she faces are bleak. Yet in the darkness, there is hope, often thwarted, of a girl on the verge of discovering herself.
That discovery isn’t always a thing to be celebrated. The confusion between the attention underage sex can bring and popularity leads our protagonist down a darker path, her desire to be loved ultimately proving to be either her downfall or the turning point into discovering her true self.
McBride’s narrative is a fractured stream of consciousness. Words splutter staccato-like from the girl’s mouth as thoughts come into and then fly out of her head. As her emotions take over the pace becomes frenetic but also, surprisingly, more reflective as the various threads in her life combine.
This emotional roller coaster is a big ask for any actress to pull of singlehandedly but Aoife Duffin’s performance is nothing short of stellar. Dressed only in a pair of pyjamas and without props Duffin conveys not only the girl’s inner thoughts but also those around her. Clearly defined characters help guide us through this troubled mind in a performance packed with emotional clarity. Each line, however fragmented, is delivered with pure precision. Each movement considered each inflection designed to drive the narrative forward. It’s a tour de force from Duffin that leaves the audience in sheer admiration for the performer.
A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is not easy viewing, nor should it be. The stream of consciousness format requires concentration to follow but if the audience put in the effort they are rewarded with an evening that not only entertains but, more importantly, makes us think about the effects of deprivation on our children.
Runs until 16 May | Image:Fiona Morgan