I have never heard a silence more deafening than the final moments of Asking for It. The world stopped in a moment of horror and icy realism, like a brutal slap. The actor who played the lead had us choked quietly with her words and her pale complexion against the darkened set.
I was terrified, and I wasn’t the only one. The room erupted in a burst of raw emotion as the audience fell apart. When the lights came on, The Gaiety Theatre was a sea of desperate humans clinging to each other, shoulders shaking and tears streaming.
It's safe to say that Asking for It was one of the most powerful pieces of art I have ever experienced. I say experienced because this play is not something you simply see. It’s something you feel and hear, inside and out as you watch. It is immersion of the most immersive, and it buries you alive until you can’t think of anything else.
I had read the book, so I felt like I was prepared for the harrowing tale of Emma, the teenager from a fictional rural Irish town, obsessed with her image and social status. I was prepared for her story, the crude public sexual assault she experiences and her little town’s inability to deal with it.
Louise O'Neill's novel had floored me, but nothing could have prepared me for seeing it brought to life.
The play is a magnificent jigsaw of elements that create an eerily close-to-home picture. The kitchen where her family sit and watch their lives fall apart is alive with Irishness, the sound of rain smashing against the windows and the white noise of the radio humming angrily in the background.
The school scenes are beyond accurate: lads flinging dirty white footballs overhead and girls draped over each other with a familiarity that only the Irish school system could inspire. A recording of the protagonist's inner monologue- Cork accent and all- coupled with a harsh spotlight on her pale face, meant there was no escape for the spectator.
We lived and breathed Emma and her world for 2 hours and 55 minutes.
Emma’s story is about all of us. It’s about every single Irish girl who wore an itchy uniform and sat on walls with boys in football jerseys. About mothers and fathers who react the only way they know how when their child is brought so low. Every person in the room could seem themselves on stage in some shape or form. Each glance, stare and comment by the characters was all too familiar.
Asking for It is a brave, raw and uncomfortable piece of art that everyone should see.
The play will run in the Gaiety Theatre until Saturday, October 26. There are still tickets available here.