Behind the Scenes at NNT: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Georgia talks with director Amy Crighton about the NNT’s current production: 'A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing'

We’re blessed here at UoN to have the only entirely student-run theatre in England, but we’re even more blessed by the incredible amount of time and effort that members of the NNT put into their fantastic productions. Currently ongoing production, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, is no exception. We here at Impact caught up with director Amy Crighton to ask about the entire creative process, why she chose to put on such a dark and unique play, and what she hopes audiences will take away from the performance.

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing deals with some incredibly distressing themes, including cancer, death, grooming, abuse, incest, and more. So why was such an intense text chosen for production? Crighton states “I read a lot of texts over the summer trying to decide what to put on, but this was the only one that jumped out at me. I’m a very visual person so I have to be able to see the set and how I’d do it instantly in my head, and I certainly had that with this”.

On the topic of the set, it’s intriguing to note that Crighton’s production includes the possibility for certain members of the audience to sit within the set itself. As a stream of consciousness novel, this intriguing directorial decision, Crighton states, “relates to the idea of the audience/reader being in the space between thoughts and the formation of words in the girl’s mind”.

Kate O’Gorman, who plays the girl, is alone on stage throughout the production, something which Crighton believes “would be really clinical and odd”, by having people in the set alongside Kate, she believes that it “really embod[ies] the idea that we’re experiencing the story from inside the girl’s head.”

As for how Crighton first came across the text, she explains how “I was recommended A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing in it’s original novel form by a friend in school and loved the book … when I discovered it had been converted into a play I knew I had to try and put it on.”

Crighton continues, stating how she has a “particular interest in transgressive women in theatre and the character (played by Kate O’Gorman) in this play is certainly transgressive and taboo in the ways she deals with her traumas and abuses.”

“Although the play is harrowing and potentially dark it’s important that issues like this are put on stage to raise awareness”

As mentioned, this play is full of potentially upsetting themes and topics, but Crighton shows a clear understanding of this, elaborating on her belief that “although the play is harrowing and potentially dark it’s important that issues like this are put on stage to raise awareness of them and the varied reactions that people can have to their abuses.”

But aside for these important themes, what else is significant about McBride’s text? When asking Crighton about her favourite aspect of the play, she declares that it’s the language. “Eimear McBride was very influenced by James Joyce and his novel Ulysses and it’s very reminiscent of that kind of stream of consciousness style – the kind that only really makes sense when you hear it read out loud.”

“McBride has said that the audience/reader are in the main character’s head in between thoughts and the formation of words and I think the language really captures that and is a beautiful and lyrical thing to hear.”

As for the overall process, Crighton admits that it has “kind of been stressful .. we’ve only had two weeks to put the show on and it’s a long monologue! But overall it’s been good. I always like that moment in the rehearsal room where you find an unusual game or little trick that unlocks a moment in the text and we’ve had plenty of those”

“Rehearsals have been a dream”

“Kate has been very patient with my occasionally experimental directing and has been so committed and fantastic the whole way through … really rehearsals have been a dream.”

Though Crighton states how the fast-paced process has been a “blur”, when asking about her favourite moment of the journey, she states that “I suppose that moment when you end a full run for the first time, and the whole room let’s out a collective breath and doesn’t know whether to applaud or just sit in awe, that’s always a pretty cool moment” and such a moment was not limited to the rehearsal room – as one commenter states “Once the show had finished I just sat in my seat letting it all sink in.”

“We shouldn’t judge people for the way they cope with what they experience in life, everyone is different”

But aside form an increased awareness of some dark, yet incredibly important themes, what can audiences expect to take away from the performance? Crighton hopes that people will “take away an awareness of what the abuses shown in the play can do to the people that experience them, and the understanding that we shouldn’t judge people for the way they cope with what they experience in life, everyone is different.”

Though it’s a “rather harrowing piece about some very serious issues … I hope we’ve put it on in such a way that people feel sad but in a ‘good’ way.”

Crighton herself has been involved with the NNT throughout her university career, we couldn’t help but ask whether she still feels nervous before a show. “Oh definitely, I think I get ‘the fear’ worse now as a director than when I was an actor.”

“I really hate watching shows as a director because I feel like a bit of a lemon. I can do nothing to help in that moment. I’m kind of fundamentally useless during a performance. It feels a bit like finally handing an essay in knowing there’s no way you can change it now!”

But despite this fear, performances so far sound as though they’ve gone down brilliantly. Crighton herself reflects how having audience members within the set has “really brought the audience into the show in a way I’m not sure could have been achieved through other means.”

“In particular, Kate is able to directly address audience members and throw asides at them etc. which really helps the character feel personable and real.”

If you’ve still yet to see this fantastic show, worry not as performances have not yet concluded! Tickets for tonight and tomorrow’s shows are still available on NNT’s website so if you have yet to attend, now’s your chance.

Georgia Butcher

Remaining shows include tonight, 2nd October at 19:00, and Saturday 3rd November at 14:00 and 19:00 – grab your tickets now!

Featured image and production shots courtesy of George Westaway.

Poster image courtesy of Amy Crighton.

Image use licence here.

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