A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Now you know what a tour de force is – and it’s very unlikely you will come across another such stunning production the rest of this year.
An extraordinary play, based on an extraordinary book by Eimear McBride’s, it’s a horribly familiar story, and familiarity does indeed breed contempt.
Set on a stark, empty stage, darkening light accompanies the most chilling scenes when the sound is reminiscent of faint but ominous noise like a large, extremely expensive household appliance about to break down.
The setting is in huge contrast to the vivid, tumbling dialogue as Aoife Duffin evokes the various scenerarios with remarkable miming, and mimicry – becomes, literally before your eyes, all the different characters. She is legion, in an incredible tour de force: mocking schoolmates; brutal assailant; forbidding grandfather; disabled brother; malevolent mother; wheedling uncle… the girl herself, clever and rebellious, and corrupted, the result of her horrifying experiences: so changed, in the dictionary definition, that she feels inevitably less pure, less valuable.
Initially, it takes some doing to engage with this slight figure who is having to control a whole bare, raised stage all by herself, the almost incoherent descriptions of unrelenting misery and rapid fire switching from one character to another. Now and then, thankfully, she has you laughing with some barbed observation, though more often than not in shock. Now and then, you have to hold your breath, forced into being an appalled witness. It is all meticulously observed, the only false note on one occasion when her mother, the epitome of bitter and twisted, qualifies ill wishing her daughter with ‘almost’,
‘The Troubles’ has always seemed an ironic euphemism, as if they could be cured quite simply by popping out to the chemist on the corner. But for this troubled girl, there are no easy answers or solutions. A masterclass in acting, the play is strong meat, very strong, and not to everybody’s taste. But watching this play, the last thing you are going to feel is fed up.