Confession: I got 20% of the way through this book before giving up; it’s written in heavy Irish dialect and disjointed half-sentences. This makes the diction boldly unconfined by the patriarchal structures of language and presents a narrative that is raw, personal and authentically, unrestrainedly female. It also makes it, as a reader, almost impenetrable.
It was a relief, then, that it worked much better as a one-woman play. The all-female team behind the production deftly guides the audience through the nuances, intensity and brutal poetry of Eimear McBride’s novel.
Ella Prince is remarkable playing every character in this role, a narrative told by “girl” who remains nameless and whose vernacular is both childlike and earthy; both incomplete and ribald. Girl’s family is devout, dysfunctional and, ultimately, devastating to her. A close relative grooms and sexually assaults her, stunting her emotional growth and confusing her sexual awakening.
Girl uses promiscuity as a survival technique, a coping mechanism, and a form of, first empowerment, then masochism. It makes for difficult, but essential viewing – especially at a time when we’re having a watershed moment in discussing male sexual violence against women.
The problem with this play is that it’s difficult to tell who’s saying what, and what is being said – the Irish lilt, the interrupted sentences, the tone-switch between childlike and very adult, and the pace combine to punish the viewer. But maybe that’s the point: you vicariously live girl’s story in the disorientating and chaotic fashion that she remembers it. The lighting and music does help clarify the muddle.
I found the final minutes powerful, heart-breaking and, I’m ashamed to say, a relief.
Until Apr 21. Kings X Theatre, Level 2, Kings Cross Hotel, 244-28 William St, Kings Cross. $26-$36+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.brevitytheatre.com.au
Reviewed by Gary Nunn