A thing

21 April 2019

Grace Patrick on the delicate story of a girl

A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing. Alternatively: A girl is a thing.

I don’t know a lot about her. But I do know what she experiences of other people; I do know how they see her.

Her grandfather sees her as trouble: a rebellious little girl onto whom he can pile his religiously motivated vitriol. She’s a problem. She’s an embarrassment. She’s his shame.

Then there’s her mother. The pressure that she’s under is immense to the point of unspeakable. The absence of her husband, the fragile life of her son, and the judgemental eyes of her father and sister are heaped on her, and for her the girl becomes a crutch. But to accept support takes courage, and so the girl becomes something to bully. None of this is really her fault, but her mother has nobody else in front of her to blame.

For her uncle, she’s a thing to manipulate and a thing to hurt. She lives in a world that barely sees her. A world that certainly won’t stop him.

To her brother, she’s a thing to be protected by. She’s a thing who won’t leave his side, who questions their mother’s self-deception and deception of others.

Without all of these things that she is to other people, it’s as if she’s nothing at all: a ball of love and rage and passion swept away on the currents of everyone else’s needs and wants.

There’s something ghostly about her silent feet on the rubber chip heaped stage, clashing with the pseudo-domesticity of warm lightbulbs and kitchen chairs. It’s as if even now, telling her story and finally speaking, she isn’t quite here. I found myself willing the people on the stage to back away, to leave her to her isolation and trauma. Somehow, this isn’t a space that we should be shouldering our way into. Kate O’Gorman’s characters slip between the terrifying cold of the uncle and the childish job of the brother, and everything in between, creating the world as the girl experiences it.

The story is delicate and easily crushed. Perhaps it could be allowed to breathe a little more, but its heart survives.

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Photo credit: Beatrice Debney