Writer: Eimear McBride
Adaptor: Annie Ryan
Director: Annie Ryan
Reviewer: Caitriona M Reilly
Corn Exchange presents an adaptation of Eimear McBride’s award winning novel, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. This is a beautiful adaptation by Annie Ryan which captures the tragedy and syncopated language of McBride’s novel.
Aoife Duffin is the single cast member. The performance (approx. 85 mins) requires her to play a variety of characters: from the abused unnamed Girl, to the Girl’s manic mother, and the numerous abusers. A minor and brief critique of Duffin is that sometimes she doesn’t seem to know what to do with her hands. In the beginning moments of the performance when re-inacting the mother, Duffin’s hand moments are over exaggerated and there is a strange awkwardness to her movements. Perhaps one can read this as Duffin playing the Girl mimicking the mother and thus creating an imagined caricature. Aside from this trivial annoyance, Duffin’s performance is haunting. This is an intense, emotionally draining performance in which Duffin excels.
Duffin successfully creates characters of whom the audience can recognise by the shift in her tone or stance. The changes are ever so subtle and as such the audience are removed from the brutal garishness of the other personas. Duffin performs in baggy men’s pyjamas and is devoid of any markings of femininity. If anything, the costume by Katie Crowley make her seem more vulnerable. Given the effect of a mental illness, such as depression, on a person’s ability to perform the simplest of everyday tasks, one could read the costume as being that of someone confined to their home and unable to face the world. It is essential that the character is not dollied up and is instead completely desexualised. The audience can instead read her as a victim of circumstance rather than a postfeminist, promiscuous hussy.
During the post-show discussion, assistant director, Eoghan Carrick, briefly mentioned the similarity of A Girl is a Half-formed Thing to Samuel Beckett’s Not I. This reviewer sees numerous Beckettian influences in the production. In Annie Ryan’s adaptation of McBride’s novel, the way in which the Girl spews the stories of her disturbed adolescence is similar to how Mouth in Not I regurgitates memories. The rhythm and pace of the way in which the language is delivered is essential in each play. The lighting by Sinéad Wallace, is comparable with Beckett’s Footfalls in how the lighting is cast over the stage floor in the beginning of the performance. Comparing Lisa Dwan’s recent performance of a trio of Beckett’s plays (dir. Walter Asmus, Royal Court, 2014), one could not help but draw comparisons between the two productions. Unlike Dwan’s methodical sternness, there is something devastatingly raw about Duffin’s performance. Like Mouth in Not I, the Girl is trapped in a memorial purgatory. However, unlike Mouth, the Half-formed Girl receives redemption. She is able to finish her story albeit in the most tragic circumstances. Her tragedy sets her free and we, the audience, are left with the remnants of a terrible existence.
Photo courtesy of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Runs until 5th October