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A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Aoife Duffin in A Girl is a Half-formed Thing at Traverse Theatre Aoife Duffin in A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing at Traverse Theatre

Eimear McBride’s hugely successful debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, with its distinctive, fragmented narrative style, is a first person account of a young girl’s coming of age in an abusive and oppressive environment.

As the girl in question Aoife Duffin is mercurial, shape-shifting, turning in a blink from victim to perpetrator and back again, arguing with herself, sculpting a world. She’s contained and reactive for the most part, soaking things up, battered by life but still spirited, in the beginning at least.

Duffin’s mastery of the language of the play is absolute; she rides every lilt and drift, like music. It’s a technically accomplished performance in so many ways, a thing of craft and skill, but also great delicacy: a glorious performance.

Annie Ryan’s adaptation, previously seen at the Dublin Theatre Festival, is also skilfully done but, perhaps inevitably, after a while it comes to feel like a grief machine; while not without humour, it becomes increasingly intense and relentless as the girl grapples with an absent father, a brother with cancer, an abusive uncle and a violent assault.

She’s battered on all sides and by the end you start to feel battered by it too. There’s no escape hatch; it demands your tears. Duffin’s performance, however, is mesmerising.

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Beautifully performed if relentless monologue adapted from the novel by Eimear McBride