Presented by The Corn Exchange Theatre Company, it was a sellout hit at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2014 and now has a run until Saturday 16 May at Norwich Playhouse as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival.
I was at the original book launch for Eimear McBride’s first published novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing at The Bookhive in Norwich back in July 2013 when no-one, least of all Eimear, knew what a runaway success the novel would be. By Christmas, Eimear was winning prize after prize for the book which had been otherwise rejected year after year. Thanks to the foresight and courage of Henry Layte and Sam Jordison who, as Galley Beggar Press, made it their mission to publish the manuscript they had been offered. Less than two years later, this book has really taken the literary world by storm, now published by Faber
It is not a story for everyone – the subject matter is dark, the writing style hard to navigate but as I stood there in the Bookhive listening to Eimear read passages from the pages I just wanted to hear her read it all in her lilting poetic Irish voice with all the expression and rhythm that had evidently been going round in her head for years. I didn’t want her to stop and even then thought that it would make a great performance piece.
Well, tonight I watched that performance, or rather a stage adaptation of the original book, a soliloquy by a single performer on a bare stage with lighting as the set. Minimal yet so powerful. Performing in pyjama bottoms and teeshirt, Aofie Duffin cut a slight figure, picked out in light on a large dark stage. Starting from the blackness as a baby in the womb, she recants the story of a sad and tragic life in Catholic Ireland, beset by poverty, abandonment, abuse and the eventual death of her brother who suffered a long-term brain tumour. I am not going to be guilty of a spoiler, as the story as told is gripping, holding the entire audience in a breath-holding spell for 90 minutes.
90 minutes of learned lines, multiple characters, the passage of many years all eloquently delivered in a beautiful, soft but strong Irish voice. I had been afraid that the stage performance would not live up to my expectation, that the authenticity of Eimear’s first reading when she had no idea about how successful the work would be lost but this was as good and better than I had hoped.
I read the book but this performance really brought it to life – sad and tormented life, gritty and harsh, pulling no punches or indulging in sentimentality, this is no doubt yet another success for ‘A Girl is a Half-formed Thing'.
I am really pleased, proud to have been there from the beginning, proud that it was in Norwich, City of Literature that someone recognised the potential of the original script and happy for the success and recognition for Eimear who has shown her talent to a world audience now. I hope that this stage show goes on to be a classic and that Aoife goes on to get the recognition she deserves.
Don't miss it - book your tickets at http://www.nnfestival.org.uk/festival/performance/a-girl-is-a-half-formed-thing
‘One of the best stage adaptations of a novel you’re likely to see’
***** The Sunday Times
***** The Guardian
*****The Financial Times
“Duffin’s ‘powerhouse performance’ listed in the Top Ten Performances of 2014”
***** The Observer
Performance runs c. 80 mins (no interval)
Visit The Corn Exchange's website here
Buy A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (ISBN: 9780957185326)