Ireland's Corn Exchange offer a ferocious, elemental adaptation of Eimear McBride’s disturbing novel
This review is from the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Tour de force misery monologues are ten a penny at the Edinburgh Fringe. But there is something genuinely extraordinary about ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’, the stage version of Eimear McBride’s harrowing stream-of-consciousness 2013 novel about an Irish girl who lives a wild, tragic life.
I haven’t read the book, so don’t know how much work for adaptor/director Annie Ryan has had to do to it. But the 80-minute stage work is formally remarkable, a Joycean storm of words – some real, some invented – that doesn’t so much possess a narrative as hurl out a barrage of imagery so searingly that the story is blasted into your cerebellum, even if only half the words really make sense.
Of course, you can’t have a tour de force monologue without a tour de force performance, and it’s impossible to imagine ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’ without Aoife Duffin riding its lightning. Her simple mastery of the text is impressive enough (a sample line: ‘Feed fat juicy poison poison young boy skin. Weeks for you, Weeks it. Scared and bald and wet the bed’). But it goes beyond that: her face a mask of rage, she is wild, wild and elemental as the words, almost wild enough that we can avoid feeling sorry for her as misery after misery is heaped upon her unnamed narrator.
First her brother gets cancer; it goes into remission, but then her dad walks out on the family; after that her uncle starts sexually abusing her, and she becomes addicted to joyless, violent sex; later on, things get really dark.
She never asks for our sympathy, but ultimately it’s hard not to want to give it, and it’s difficult to shake the sense that it’s all a bit much for an 80-minute show, that maybe Ryan might have toned the book down for the sake of making her adaption less OTT. But ultimately this ferocious, gorgeous show transcends mere story.