Astonishing. That is the word that fits Genevieve Hulme-Beamen’s one-woman show, “Pondling,” which she wrote and stars in, presented by Guna Nua and Ramblinman as part of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival, and performed on the smallest of three stages in the 59E59 Theater complex in Manhattan.
Hulme-Beamen’s Madeleine is an Irish adolescent who lives in a rural world of men: on a cattle farm with her grandfather and brother, she is exempt from chores save for holding a torch during milking, though she knows this is a ruse for her “general uselessness.” She speaks with an exaggerated manner and her gestures are dramatic; she is an intense little girl and to escape from her dreary world, she has concocted a rich fantasy life, complete with a love interest, John O, “older now, 14,” who in real life only scorns her.
So far, seems familiar. But when Madeleine says she “killed the stray cat that frightened the chickens at night,” you get the feeling that something is amiss. In short, she has all the makings of a teen psychopath.
Hulme-Beamen’s script is full of sharply drawn images and her precise language is unique; she also gives a full-out, tour de force performance that left me breathless. She was frightening in her ferocity and simultaneously sympathetic, which is quite a feat when playing a seriously disturbed child I would personally run from. When Madeleine gets her “wish,” when she enters the sophisticated world of women, “lovely and glamorous,” she is intoxicated by all the beauty, all the femininity, all that she can borrow but is not hers. Hulme-Beamen lets us see and touch and feel what Madeline does. When it is all taken away, the heartbreak is palpable.
“Pondling” is astonishing.