Genevieve Hulme-Beaman enraptures audience’s attention in her one-woman play like no other. “Pondling,” a Gúna Nua Theatre Company and Ramblinman production from Dublin, Ireland premiered Off-Broadway in the US at the 59E59 Theaters as part of Origin’s 1stIrish Festival. It was directed by Paul Meade, artistic director of Gúna Nua.
Hulme-Beaman dresses in a simple knit jumper, uniform skirt, knee-high socks, and black patent shoes—she is the picture of a traditional schoolgirl and this is enough to transform her into a young girl named Madeline living in rural Ireland who makes mundane experiences on her family’s farm become insane adventures. She is incredibly and almost unbelievably entertaining in the way that she uses emphasis and pauses to make her monologues both highly dramatic and hilarious. Madeline is still a child but one who wants to grow up and be an adult. She attempts to show her maturity through her interests, but ultimately shows the audience how devilish, and even psychotic, she is in order to achieve what she wants, no matter who or what gets in her way.
Hulme-Beaman has an incredible stage presence, using only a trunk and curtain as props but transforming the almost empty stage into a lively farm, house, or playground. She managed to keep the audience laughing almost every single minute of the play. Madeline, or Madeline Humble Buttercup, as she more modestly prefers to be called, describes what her everyday life is like: she pines over her crush, Johnno Boyle O’Conner—an older man 14 years of age, she searches for a mentor to teach her how to become the most beautiful and glamorous woman—to impress her crush of course, and she has strange encounters with the farm animals—whether that means talking to them or decapitating chickens to prove a point. She seemed to relish in the audience’s shock, pausing to take in the moment before continuing. Her facial expressions are very communicative and it is easy to see where her train of thought it going—often to scary places.
It was wonderful to see where Madeline was taking her obsessions, more often than not crossing the line between ordinary child behavior and that of a sociopath. Whereas in the beginning, she seemed sweet but a little infatuated, by the end it was obvious her obsessions were far from normal. However, it didn’t make scenes with her poisoning animals or breaking into people’s homes to shower and wear their makeup any less funny.
“Pondling” was hysterically remarkable and Hulme-Beaman offered a stellar and impeccable performance making the audience wish the play would never end.
“Pondling” closed in October after a two-month run in New York City.