Standing ovation for Asking for It

June 28th, 2018 5:05 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Clonakilty writer Louise O'Neill, second from right, with her family, sister Michelle, far left, and parents Micheál and Marie, at the world premiere of ‘Asking For It' at the Everyman Theatre in Cork last Friday. (Photo: John Allen)

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THE stage adaptation of Clonakilty author Louise O’Neill’s novel Asking for It was given a standing ovation on its opening night at the Everyman Theatre in Cork last Friday night.

The play, which has been adapted by Landmark Productions, formed part of the Cork Midsummer Festival and is an Abbey Theatre co-production.

Meadhbh McHugh adapted the award-winning book for theatre, in collaboration with Annabelle Comyn.

But special mention must go to Lauren Coe who played the part of Emma, a young student in an Irish town who is raped at a post-football match party.

Emma’s world starts to crumble uncontrollably after her nightmare goes ‘viral’, because the boys have taken photographs of her during this horrific ordeal.  

Landmark treated the rape scene very sensitively, with the combined use of imagery, voiceover and an incredibly malleable set, (designed by Paul O’Mahony), without ever diluting the savagery of the acts.

The audience was visibly shaken at the interval and much of the commentary was about the many similarities with the recent high-profile rape trial in Belfast, yet the book was first published in 2015.

The second half was equally as terrifying, as the dangers of vindictive social media posts hit home for the many parents in the theatre and Emma’s isolation grew increasingly intense. 

Now largely confined to the kitchen of Emma’s home, the play became a mesmerising insight into a family in crisis. 

It made for a very claustrophobic feel to the unfolding tragedy, complementing Emma’s own shrinking world.

Her father’s sudden emotional outbreak caught the viewer unawares, a stark contrast with his earlier somewhat detached reaction to his daughter’s distress.

Although Lauren’s performance was outstanding, every member of this largely very young cast of 12 played their hearts out.

This was also Louise’s first viewing of the entire play and she attended with her parents Marie and Micheál, and sister Michelle.

She later tweeted: ‘It was the first time I experienced the story as an observer, rather than a creator. I couldn’t stop crying. For my younger self, for Emma, for all the Emmas in the world right now who feel so alone.’

• Asking for It will be at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin from November 9th – 24th.

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