herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

MCBRIDE'S DARK DEBUT LEAVES US DRAINED...

A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING

Out of the darkness comes light. Almost like winter solstice at Newgrange, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing's lone performer shuffles delicately in a dark, chamber-like dwelling, a ray of artificial light shining through the cracks.

Adapted for the stage by the Corn Exchange Company's Annie Ryan, Eimear McBride's award-winning debut novel is a deeply depressing piece of literature. Problematic, too, in that its heavily-stylised language (one-word/split sentences aplenty) makes it almost impenetrable.

Actress Aoife Duffin has her work cut out for, then, in this gloomy, near-cinematic depiction, which tells the story of a rural Irish girl growing up in the most dysfunctional of family settings.

We're inside our protagonist's head, from the womb right up until the age of 20. A pyjama-clad Duffin portrays a long line of characters, from 'the girl' and her sick brother, to the staunchly catholic mother and monstrous uncle. The transformations are extraordinary.

Cold and relentless, A Girl… wraps itself up in a plethora of horrors, exploring the harsh realities of sexual abuse and troubled adolescence. There is a touch of humour, but this most harrowing of theatrical exhibitions isn't exactly the type of play that you enjoy.

What we're dealing with here is an experimental, Beckett-like stream-of-consciousness that rarely lets up. It isn't without its flaws.

There's an almighty jump into the girl's teens, and it can be difficult to keep up with things, not least when the complex narrative loses the run of itself towards the end. Emotionally draining, it is, however, a brave adaptation with a superlative performance at its centre.

Running until October 5 HHHII

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