A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Perfectly pieced together play which follows a young girl as she remembers her fragmented life
This article is from 2015.
Eimear McBride's novel, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is unique, in that it manages to resist cliche while dealing with commonly-explored issues: sexual abuse, religion in Ireland and familial tension. It achieves this through highly-stylised language and form, and so translating its essence into a piece of theatre is a risk. Happily, it's a risk that director Annie Ryan took, and though the issues explored are often visited in theatre, there is nothing commonplace about this play.
Like the novel, the production relies on the uncompromising power of language. The premise of the play is as simple as its staging, in that it tells the story of a young girl's life from birth to adulthood. In communicating this, Aoife Duffin stands alone on stage, without a set, props, or a supporting cast, and simply speaks.
She plays every character in the play – the titular girl, her sheltered mother, her sexual aggressor – but crucially, they are not mimicked or ventriloquised. She shows us by telling us, her physical and vocal changes subtle yet distinctive, and through Duffin's transporting performance, the almost empty stage seems full of people with stories to share.
Though many scenes are uncomfortable to watch (one rape scene is particularly brutal) it's impossible to look away. The script is dark, but it's also full of humour and on-point commentary about growing up in Ireland, where propriety is of the utmost concern and despite any tragedy that may occur in life, you must say your Hail Marys and mind not to swear.
This intimate play draws you in, managing to incite the most extreme reactions from its captive audience: one minute the house is laughing, the next it is deadly silent, mesmerised by the sheer power of the performance. As Duffin beautifully pieces together what's left of a woman's fractured life, it's clear that this production is an extremely well-formed thing.
Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 30 Aug, Times vary, £20 (£15)