A Girl is A Half-formed Thing – Dublin Theatre Festival Review

A Girl is A Half Formed Thing

A young woman walks to the centre of the stage in darkness. As the lights slowly rise, you realise she is wearing only pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt. She stands on the raised stage with a strong light from one side. She starts to tell her story, that of her childhood and life growing up in Ireland.

This is a stage adaptation of Eimear McBride’s novel which was only published last year. McBride has said Joyce was one of the key influences on her work and there is certainly a comparison in the flow of the language. This is no straight depiction of events, but rather a collection of images and phrases that capture something more delicate. Annie Ryan has adapted the book for the stage and has performed the task remarkably well, capturing the essence of the work and the dream like quality. The story changes quickly between periods in her life and the passage of time is difficult to follow, you grasp onto phrases in the text to know where or who is speaking, as it is never clearly delineated.

Aoife Duffin plays all parts in this production, changing from man to woman, Mother to Daughter,  Uncle to Brother and a variety of other minor characters. This is a  hugely complex part, as she has to radically alter her emotional state every few seconds, from an irate mother to a bored teenager and many other variations. Duffin shows a degree of emotional vulnerability that is difficult to achieve and is very impressive in this role. This is the first event I have visited in the Theatre Festival and I doubt I will see a better performance. Having said that, this work is definitely not for everyone. This is a challenging story, a tale of incest, rape and illness. It is an emotional rollercoaster, dealing with topics that are difficult to discuss. It shows the damage that sexual abuse can do to a young person and the consequences of it in later life. For those brave enough, it is very rewarding.

A Girl is A Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Adapted for the stage and directed by Annie Ryan
Performed by Aoife Duffin

Set design Lian Bell
Music and sound design by Mel Mercier
Lighting by Sinéad Wallace

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