Asking For It

“I belong to those boys now. They have seared their names on my heart.” 

Rape culture, victim-blaming, and slut-shaming are unfortunately ubiquitous in the world at large, each reinforcing futile stereotypes that treat women as second-class citizens.  

In light of the controversial Ulster Rugby Rape Trial and the recent Cork Rape Trial, Ireland is a society that contributes to a culture that dismisses violence against women far too easily.  

Louise O’Neill’s ground-breaking novel, Asking for It, started a conversation in 2015 that has been continued with its stage adaptation in the Abbey Theatre this month. 

Transformed and brought to life through drama, Asking for It tells the story of Emma O’Donovan (played by Lauren Coe), a popular teenager living in the fictional town of Ballinatoom whose world is turned upside down by a horrific act of violence at a party.  

The stage adaptation of this harrowing tale was curated by Anne Clarke of Landmark Productions and Julie Kelleher of The Everyman, who together have succeeded in conveying a chilling narrative that is merely a microcosm of the heart-breaking experiences of thousands of women. 

Performed in front of a simple yet effective and fully flexible backdrop, the first half of the play depicts Emma’s days leading up to the event that would ultimately change her life. The stage is plain but adapts to the scene and creates context without being overbearing.  

The latter half of the performance takes place almost entirely in the O’Donovan’s kitchen, where Ali White’s portrayal of Emma’s mother is a stellar rendering of despondence and grief. 

The actors that play Emma’s peers must be commended highly also. While not all the teenage characters are particularly likeable, they each deliver performances so convincing it’s like they’re not acting at all.  

The male actors give a raw portrayal of jock and lad cultures evident in schools across the country, making sure not to shy away from any obscenities – sexual gestures, misogynistic comments, and inappropriate innuendos galore. At times, there are scenes that are difficult to watch.  

Some of the remarks made by the male characters make the hairs on your neck stand up and there are several distressing scenes surrounding Emma post-sexual assault.  

However, the discomfort felt by the audience watching such scenes is microscopic compared to the reality faced by victims of rape daily. Their stories must not be silenced. 

Asking for It premiered on November 9th in the Abbey Theatre and ran until November 24th. All shows were sold out.