In the detail

22 April 2019

 Nathan Dunn zeroes in on the relationship between performer and set 

A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing deals with tremendously difficult issues, naturally making it a difficult watch. However, its harrowing content isn’t the only cause of this difficulty.

Kate O’Gorman’s performance is impressive. She handles emotional turns with swift precision and is entirely convincing. I just wish she was a bit more…unforgiving? One of the best pieces of dramatic advice I’ve received came from one of my tutors, who remarked: ‘theatre isn’t ‘HAVE THAT’, it’s ‘come here.’’ (Unfortunately, hand-gestures cannot be placed into print.) However, in my opinion (which, alongside any advice I reference, is not infinitely unfailing) solo work is a specific medium that depends on specific controls. The room must be dominated. Totally and utterly controlled by performance. Though the aesthetic of the following concept is seductive, I can’t help but feel this play (and consequentially, the room) is far too big for the performer. An untamed style can be powerful, and in this instance it is in many ways, but when control of the room feels wild, it’s sometimes difficult to engage with.

It’s a shame that her conviction can be glossed over. Fortunately, it’s not disastrous. It doesn’t take too much away from the myriad of emotional cliffs the show conquers. It’s just that sometimes words get lost under the melodic neatness of O’Gorman’s Irish accent, and I feel like the words are reaching for the walls and ceiling but fall short. It’s arguably a simple issue of projection, though I’ll refrain from further comment because I have no interest in critiquing a performer based on how loud they are. It would be unnecessarily pedantic. Instead, I am inclined to suggest the in-set accentuates these technical, minute shortfalls. Although theatrically stimulating, the effect of a select few literally being within the inner circle of this play somewhat polarises us. Though clearly deliberate, O’Gorman’s use of these members of the audience as participants of her direct address leaves me inclined to believe that some elements of the piece fell within the boundaries of this particular space. I think knowing that I was part of a crowd who were the second hurdle in regards to navigating this dialogue as opposed to the first made it too easy to disengage.

I wouldn’t normally commit such detail to what I myself profess to be small issues. However, they permeated my viewing experience and that is what this is a reflection of. A collation of this experience would be best described as something that was bravely performed, acutely directed, technically intelligent yet blurred by forgiving facets of the play’s portrayal, both directorially and performatively. I don’t want to be left off the hook. Next time, I hopefully won’t be.


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Photo credit: Beatrice Debney