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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.

Image result for asking for it book

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.

Photo: The Gaiety Theatre

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.

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Easter break is here and we have welcomed it with open arms.

You may be a lucky college student with weeks off from lectures, or a girl boss who is constantly dreaming about bank holiday Monday.

Even though we love having a busy schedule we adore the thought of curling up with a book with an Easter egg to our left and a cup of tea to our right.

We’ve conjured up a list of the books you just have to delve into this Easter. Bookworms, enjoy these joyous tales.

The Bestseller: Letters To My Daughters by Emma Hannigan.

 

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This novel is jam-packed with excitement, heartache, and shocking twists. There is so much going on in Emma Hannigan’s Letters To My Daughters you won’t be able to put it down. The book follows the lives of the Brady sisters who are all living drastically different lives, from the wild sister who lives in LA, to the sister whose husband and daughter gang up on her, making her life miserable, and the eldest sister who owns a string of successful bridal shops, but can’t help but feel like something is missing from her life, despite her booming business. The tale looks at the strained relationship between the sisters and their busy mum Martha.

This book is ideal for those of you who love a drama-filled tale stocked full of family drama.

The Old Favourite: Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

The classic chick-lit novel stole the hearts of many women back in the 90s, and it is still one of the most loved novels today. The tale is written in the style of the personal diary making it extremely easy to read. You’ll gobble this novel up in one sitting. If you’re unfamiliar with the legend that is Bridget Jones, she is a thirty-year-old singleton living in London, who has set new year resolutions that every girl will relate to- lose weight, improve career, stop drinking and find a boyfriend.

This book is the perfect antidote if you’re feeling a little bit glum. Bridget Jones’s Diary will leave you crying with laughter and the diary-style makes the story that little bit more heartwarming.

The Biography: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

She may be busy starring alongside Oprah and Reese Witherspoon in A Wrinkle In Time, but prior to that role, Mindy Kaling penned one of the best biographies in a long time.

 

The actress opens up about her fears and worries and the doubts that fill many of our minds on a daily basis. Mindy’s honest words are so refreshing and endearing. The Office star shares her opinions on friendship, Hollywood and romance in this genius book.

This witty biography is bound to bring a smile to your face, even if you’re not a fan Mindy. She discusses the anxieties and worries we are often too afraid to talk about, and her openness is a real breath of fresh air.

The One Everyone Is Talking About: Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

 

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Louise O’Neill’s poignant and moving stories have won the hearts of many women around the world. She has featured such important and touching topics in her work. Almost Love follows the complicated story of Sarah who falls for a man and sacrifices everything else in her life to be with him, even her job. Sarah and Matthew’s toxic relationship makes this a raw and gritty read.

This book will open your eyes to the scary reality of falling for the wrong person.

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From drafting her first book at home in her parents' spare room to being flown to New York to discuss her first film deal, it’s certainly been four years of extremes for Cork native Louise O’Neill.

After over a year working for ELLE magazine in the US, O’Neill moved home in September 2011 with a plan – to write her first novel. Just over a year later, she had a full first draft of Only Ever Yours under her belt, which went on to win her the Newcomer Of The Year Award at the Irish Book Awards in 2014.

Pausing during our interview to hug her mum goodbye (“She’s off to Thailand!”) it’s clear O’Neill still has strong roots at home in West Cork. But over the last twelve months her life has spiralled in a million different directions – most notably last September, when US film/TV studio Killer Content bought the rights to Only Ever Yours.

"They flew me first class to New York and threw me a party on a yacht with Eva Longoria. It was all very surreal," she recalls to SHEmazing! from her family home in Clonakilty, where she’s spending the night before travelling back to Dublin for a panel discussion at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival. 

"I could never have anticipated it when I first started writing. I was just thinking of the next thousand words."

While that undeniably huge level of success might be enough to keep some young authors going, O’Neill barely stopped for a minute before penning her second – and equally lauded – book, Asking For It, which threw up a whole new set of "firsts" for her.

Chief among those is the fact that she’s become something of an unintentional activist for consent and sexual violence issues in Ireland, largely due to the subject matter of Asking For It.

The story of a Leaving Cert student who has her life ripped apart after explicit images of her end up online has struck a chord with Irish readers, not just in the Young Adult sphere but everywhere else, too.

"Even early on, when I was researching the book, I realised that rape and consent were much bigger issues in Ireland than I had ever known," she recalls.

"Women were coming to me and telling stories, saying things like ‘Oh, I had an unpleasant sexual experience,’ or ‘I was drunk, I said I didn’t want to have sex but we did’… Things that made me think, ‘That sounds like the definition of rape to me.’"

And even now, O’Neill is still asked to advise, help or just to be a listening ear to countless readers.

"I get emails every single day from women sharing their experiences – survivors or people going through things right now that Asking For It has helped them to understand," she says.

"It’s just been this ripple effect from where I first started, at home in my parents' spare room in my PJs, on the laptop.

"It’s humbling and gratifying but it’s also terrifying… The main thing I try to do is to listen and to be there."

Despite the ever-blurring divide between, as she puts it, "artist and activist," O’Neill is still on track with her third book, which she hopes to have finished by early next year.

"I do feel off-kilter at the moment, but I have a blanket ban from June [2016] to January [2017], and that’s when I’ll stay at home and really get into the writing. I need that stability and normality."

While O’Neill says she’s too "superstitious" to discuss the plot of her third novel just yet, she’s already started speaking to women and crafting "the voice of my main character."

For now though, it’s back on the road – first to UCC later in the afternoon for a creative writing workshop, and onward to Dublin tomorrow.

"It never stops," she laughs. "But it’s great. It’s brilliant."

Louise O’Neill will be discussing Asking For It at Opsh’s Book Club next Monday, March 14 at The Button Factory, Dublin 2.

She’ll be joined by journalists Louise Bruton and Jeanne Sutton; and blogger Rosie Connolly.

Tickets for the event start at €15, with €5 of each ticket redeemable on Opsh.com. Dubray Books are also offering 25% off Asking For It for ticketholders ahead of the event – simply use the code OPSH at checkout.

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