A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Eimear McBride, adapted for the stage by Annie Ryan

Corn Exchange

Traverse Theatre

From 06 August 2015 to 30 August 2015

Rating: ****

Review by Philip Fisher

There seems little doubt that Aoife Duffin will be on every prize list in town for this outstanding solo performance, into which she throws herself physically and emotionally for 90 minutes without an interval.

The Irish actress plays an unnamed Catholic girl drawn from the award-winning novel of the same name and adapted for the stage by Annie Ryan of Corn Exchange.

We follow the youngster through her first 20 years of life, which are in many ways typical but in others rarefied.

Her father leaves before the girl is born, partly repulsed by her older brother's brain tumour, which seems likely to doom the boy to a limited lifespan.

The remaining trio (including frustrated, religious mother) muddle through. While her brother is bullied by classmates, our heroine discovers sex and popularity early, when her uncle abuses the 13-year-old.

From there on, she goes through a relatively standard girlhood, accepting that she enjoys and constantly uses sex to get on.

This leads to a series of thrills and spills, many merely tawdry but some as dangerous as one would imagine.

In particular, the uncle's infatuation and the brother's illness turn what might otherwise have been a standard coming of age tale into something considerably more striking.

The success of the piece lies both in elements of a moving but occasionally melodramatic story and an exceptional performance, carefully honed by the actress and Annie Ryan.