Asking For It is a new stage adaptation of Louise O’Neill’s devastating novel, directed by Annabelle Comyn, which shines an unflinching light on the experience of a young woman whose life is changed forever by a horrific act of violence. The world premiere will take place at the Everyman, Cork, from June 9th-23, followed by a stint at The Abbey in late 2018.

The Artistic Director of the Everyman, Julie Kelleher, tells us more…

The lightning bolt moment that gave rise to idea for the forthcoming stage adaptation of Asking for It by Louise O’Neill had a few different starting points.

When the #WakingTheFeminists clarion call sounded in November 2015, I began to look closely at the Everyman programme. Here I was, a relatively "woke" thirty-something, still programming work predominantly written and directed by men. I had made some really clear decisions about choosing to produce titles where women were strongly represented and were the majority of the cast too, as a small way of providing more work for female actors. But I hadn’t quite got my head around the rather larger problem of producing more work written and directed by women. So, I began to turn my attention to those possibilities.

The lightning bolt eventually struck. We should adapt and stage Louise’s book. It is everything that Irish theatre could and should be saying in this moment. But we couldn’t do it alone.

I think it was early 2016 when I read Louise’s brilliant, heartbreaking book. Several book-loving friends assured me it was a must-read. They weren’t wrong. The book has many great achievements, not least of which are Louise’s facility for dialogue, the utterly compelling story and how it looks as the issues around sexual assault and consent. But the things that resonated particularly with me were the superb depictions of the deadly group dynamics that can exist among young people, and the truthfulness of the depiction of Emma’s increasing isolation as her mental health begins to deteriorate drastically. I quite literally couldn’t get it out of my head.

In early March 2016, at the Irish Times Theatre Awards I watched Anne Clarke receive a Special Tribute award given ‘in recognition of her extraordinary work as a producer of world-class theatre in Ireland’. I had worked worked with Anne at an early stage of my producing career, and it was a formative experience to observe her incredible work ethic up close. She spoke passionately about her work with Landmark and her collaborators from the podium that night and I was reminded of how much I wanted to work with her again, and how much I hoped the Everyman and Landmark could partner to produce something someday.

Lauren Coe as Emma in Asking for It 

A very short two days later, I was sitting at the second #WakingTheFeminists event on International Women’s Day at Liberty Hall when the lightning bolt eventually struck. We should adapt and stage Louise’s book. It is everything that Irish theatre could and should be saying in this moment. But we couldn’t do it alone. I think because of the motivating nature of these particular events, I was filled with inspiration and gumption and I thought I shouldn’t hang around in case somebody else got there before me, which I felt certain was an inevitability! I emailed Anne Clarke that evening and blurted all of that out, rounding out my pitch with an appeal to Corkonian patriotism, reminding her that like ourselves, Louise was from Cork so, of course, it was all meant to be. To my great delight, Anne agreed with all of that, and we took it from there.

Here I was, a relatively "woke" thirty-something, still programming work predominantly written and directed by men.

It took us until the following September to get a meeting with Louise to pitch our idea properly to her. Her enthusiasm was palpable, and motivated us even more to make the show happen. Co-producing this project with Anne has meant that we could get amazing artists on board, such as director Annabelle Comyn, as well as partners we might not otherwise have hoped for such as the Abbey Theatre.

We worked together to secure an Open Call Award from the Arts Council which gave us the financial stability we needed. And now, almost two years on from that first email – we are a matter of days away from the world premiere at the Everyman as part of Cork Midsummer Festival in June 2018. I quite simply couldn’t be prouder.

Tickets for the world premiere of Asking For It, as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival, June 2018, are available from the Everyman Box Office, phone 021 4501 673, or book online here. The play will tour to the Abbey Theatre, Dublin from 9-24 November 2018.