Cast revealed for stage adaptation of Louise O'Neill's book

By Des O'Driscoll

A stage adaptation of Louise O'Neill's novel, Asking For It, looks set to be one of the biggest events in Irish theatre this year, and the producers have revealed who will take the lead roles in the world premiere run of the play at the Everyman in Cork.

Lauren Coe, the Dublin actress currently appearing in BBC series Troy: Fall Of A City, will take on the role of Emma, the main protagonist of the hard-hitting tale; while fellow-Dubliner Paul Mescal will play her supportive brother Bryan.

The original book won widespread acclaim on publication in 2015 for its account of a teenager who is raped at a party, and then suffers the ignominy of being shunned by her small-town community.

Lauren Coe as Emma and Paul Mescal as Bryan in Landmark Productions and the Everyman world premiere production of Asking for It by Louise O'Neill. Photo: Hugh O'Conor

In welcoming the casting announcement, Clonakilty-born O'Neill said she had been overwhelmed by how people had responded to the book.

“I receive emails from men and women all over the world who want to share their stories with me. They tell me that this book has helped them endure. It has made them feel as if they are not alone. They say that this book has, finally, given them a voice.”

With issues such as sexual violence and victim-blaming even more in the public discourse than when O'Neill penned the novel, the 32-year-old hopes the stage adaptation can contribute to the mood of change.

“I believe that art is not just a mirror, showing us our true selves, but it has the ability to shape the way in which we see ourselves, that it has the power to transform the world that we live in. Culture can change culture. I am truly eager to see what sort of change a theatrical adaptation of Asking for It could enact.”

Louise O'Neill holding a copy of 'Asking for It'. Picture: Jason Clarke.

Director Annabelle Comyn said: “When I read Asking for It by Louise O’Neill it was like a punch to the stomach. I want my daughter, and her friends, and this next generation to be informed, made aware, and enabled and encouraged to speak openly about an important, complex and tricky and at times deeply divisive subject."

Let it be controversial; let us look at ourselves.

Anne Clarke of Landmark, the company producing the play with the Everyman, said: ‘It is phenomenally exciting to see the cast begin to take shape. It’s a tribute to the power of Louise’s novel, and to the thrilling script by Meadhbh McHugh - written in collaboration with the director, Annabelle Comyn - that so many of the best and most brilliant young actors in the country are committed to bringing it to the stage.'

Asking For It will premiere at the Everyman as part of Cork Midsummer Festival on June 15, and will also have a run at the Abbey in Dublin in November.

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