There are parallels between Sarah Kane's Cleansed which is currently playing at the National Theatre and Anna Ryan's adaptation of Eimer McBride's novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing at the Young Vic. I didn't immediately see them but watching the latter reminded me of one of the problems with the former.
Both are very personal stories. I wrote in my review of Cleansed that I felt like a voyeur of someone else's emotional pain but ultimately felt detached from it. A Girl... is a monologue, a stream of consciousness about the life of a girl, her relationship with her family and men as she grows up. You can't be anywhere but with her through the good and the bad times - Aoife Duffin's performance is utterly compelling and holds you transfixed.
It's not a pretty story, it's a very difficult story to watch unfold at times in fact, but instead of using scenes of torture to represent the grim, darker sides of human emotion, as Cleansed does, A Girl's... simple storytelling relies just on Aoife Duffin's performance. She pulls you into the story; there is a connection, a bond, Aoife Duffin disappears and becomes the woman of the story. You witness the horrors she feels, the injustice, the fun and grief.
At times you want to hug her, comfort her, defend her, at times you want to scream at her and shake her. It is an often bleak story, explicit and unflinching but it doesn't push you away. Her struggles, reactions and emotions are not shrouded in the abstract as Cleansed is but instead a sort of poetry. There is a stark lyricism to it.