Eimar McBride adapted Annie Ryan A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, Young Vic, March 2nd 2016


Theare Report from Simon Jenner

Adapted from the novel, this really does seem as if it had been waiting to become a play: the author trained at Drama Centre and it’s voice in this devastating solo-acted tale of a girl growing up in Ireland from the age of 2 to 20, that won’t let go in its startling language or its narration of alienation, rare sibling tenderness with a slowly-dying brother, and sexual abuse by an uncle with whom she then feels complicit.

This isn’t about someone passively registering her trauma, though it’s that too, but about how Aiofe Duffin inhabits the consequences of what happens to her and as the nameless girl who after abuse ritualizes her damage in fraught, brutal sexual encounters, until she encounters one bruise too many and seeks a ritual cleansing, whose outcome is uncertain. The language follows Duffin’s raw butcher’s block (McBride’s term for her loss of virginity at 13) as far as it’s possible for anyone to enact from rare pushy affirmation to a foetal crump of pain.

From the opening sentence the wrenched-up seeds of inheritance blight the speaker: ‘For you. You’ll soon. You’ll give her name.. In the stitches of her skin she’ll wear your say.’ It takes a voiced register from someone like Duffin to place this masterly, difficult, lyrically terrible monologue where it belongs: the stage. Annie Ryan directs a bare one, bodily incarnated recitation here being all, with minimal sound and any refraction getting in the way of Duffin’s crushed power hitting you between eyes and ears till you lurch out reeling.

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