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Review: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, Young Vic (and the Cleansed comparison)

Enews569x364There 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.

To say that Aoife Duffin's performance is a tour de force doesn't feel right, it makes it sound too technical. It is one of those performances in which you only get a sense of the effort involved at the curtain call. It's an hour and a half solo performance and she looked as broken as the character she plays when the lights went up. There was no Anne-Marie style visible snap back into herself. I wanted to run onto the stage and give her a hug.

A Girl Is A Half Formed thing is an exceptionally powerful piece of theatre, it's getting five stars from me. See it at the Young Vic until March 26 and it's an hour and a half without an interval.


Have been a little neglectful of this recently, so I will endeavour to do better. Thought this might be more of a challenge but Aoife Duffin was in the fantastic film What Richard Did which starred Jack Reynor who was in A Royal Night Out with Emily Watson who was in The Theory of Everything with Eddie Redmayne who was in The Danish Girl with Mr W. Also Emily Watson was in Testament of Youth with Colin Morgan who was in Mojo with Mr W. How's that for a come back?