Review: A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, Everyman Theatre

Aoife Duff Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic
THIS week the Everyman’s versatile stage has been reconfigured into what is almost a proscenium arch in miniature to fit the first of two touring one-woman plays. Eimear McBride’s novel, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, has been adapted and directed for the stage by Annie Ryan as a vehicle for the astonishing talent of Aoife Duffin, who gives a riveting performance delivering 80 solid (and I mean solid) minutes of raw power and emotion. Taking the fractured structure of the original text as read, Ryan has rearranged it on the page to give clarity to the changes in character, as the actor plays not only “A Girl” but also many of the other key players in her life. We begin in the womb as the girl experiences the sounds of voices from the outside world, and from the outset we’re made aware that her life, and that of those around her, is not destined to be an easy ride. The piece moves rapidly, with broken sentences charting a path through moments of tenderness and horror. The central relationship between brother and sister is key and interwoven into their story are those of the people who come to shape and direct their lives toward the devastating conclusion. There is an abundance of very powerful material here, and it is not an easy watch, but it’s punctuated with some surprising moments of genuine humour. The torrent of words that flow like a stream of consciousness certainly recall many of Beckett’s monologue plays but, in the material and the delivery, Liverpool audiences will also be put in mind of the incendiary performance from Leanne Best in The Matchbox back in 2012, which this piece certainly approaches in its emotional intensity. Actors often have the support of a staff physio during lengthy tours with demanding work, but you might think that Aoife Duffin would need a therapist of a different kind delivering these lines daily, but she seems remarkably calm offstage. Maybe there’s something cathartic in the process. Certainly the audience leaves the theatre looking a bit shell-shocked, but while the emotion of the work may be overwhelming, so is the skill of this remarkable actor who, under the skilful direction of Annie Ryan, brings McBride’s challenging writing vividly and lucidly to life on stage as though this is where it was meant to be. A matter of life and death, and essential viewing. Review by Nigel Smith