Pondling: Interview with Genevieve Hulme-Beaman

Pondling by Genevieve Humle-Beaman
Pondling by Genevieve Humle-Beaman
Pondling returns to Smock Alley Boys’ School next month, the same venue it sold out at last year’s Dublin Fringe Festival. Written and performed by Genevieve Hulme- Beaman, this intense one-hour play is dark and funny. Genevieve won Best Female Performer at the Fringe Awards for her portrayal of the creepy young girl and the play has also been nominated for the Steward Parker Award.

Pondling was first performed as part of the 2013 Collaborations Festival and I asked Genevieve where she got the idea for the show. She said that the first thing that came to her was the image of a little girl in a dramatic pose. This, along with the idea of a child speaking tragic, over-dramatic, French, was her starting point for Pondling.

Genevieve has been working with her Pondling director Paul Meade for many years. He was her assigned mentor when she was a student at the Gaiety School of Acting. After she graduated in 2010, Genevieve played the part of Amber on the international tour of Elaine Murphy’s Little Gem, directed by Meade. The characters in Little Gem are three generations of the same family who tell their story in monologue. Genevieve says that this role really taught her how to perform monologues.

After Pondling‘s success at the Fringe, Genevieve went on to perform at the Gate Theatre, in a version of Pride & Prejudice adapted by James Maxwell and Alan Stanford. She played the youngest Bennett sister Lydia, who she describes as “such a little boldy”. She says it was an amazing part in a big cast, and that it was refreshing to be part of an ensemble for a change. Genevieve says that the nice thing about acting is that it’s always changing.

Genevieve will be spending a week in Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig as part of the Stewart Parker nomination and has some ideas of what she’d like to work on while she’s there. Beyond that, she would love for Pondling to have a long life and to perform it around the world. She’d like to see how audiences in other countries react to her psychotic 10-year-old creation.

In the meantime, Dublin audiences will have the pleasure of Madeline Humbel Buttercup’s company in Smock Alley, 31st March – 5th April and in Axis: Ballymun on 17th – 19th April.

Related Post: A very female Fringe

Snow Angels at Project Arts Centre

Snow Angels
Snow Angels
For Snow Angels, in the Cube at Project Arts Centre, the audience sit on three sides around a set that combines realistic, solid structures – walls with light fittings and doors that opened – and more abstract design – the floor and sofa are made from wooden pallets and there is a door lying on the ground. An image of falling snow is projected onto to a screen tilted like a ceiling and suspended above the stage. The wide configuration lets us think we are seeing more than we are; a lot of the action happens off stage.

When the play begins we are introduced one-by-one to the three characters. They have just moved in together and this is the first morning they have woken up in their new home. We get to know them and their relationships to each other slowly. We learn a lot about Sebastian (Michael Hough) from his younger brother Oscar (Ger Hough), who mocks Sebastian’s “gritty, inner city novel” but also seems afraid to knock on his door and wake him. Later Sebastian quizzes Oscar about Jim (Des Hickey). Oscar doesn’t say much other than “he’s my friend”. The way he says it however, suggests that Oscar doesn’t have a lot of friends. As a result, the audience are given a number of different versions of each character. There’s the way they are talked about by the others, the way they see themselves and the way they really are in front of us. Everyone is telling stories about themselves but as it becomes clear that they are trapped in the house with no means of escape, these different versions are slowly stripped back and we see the characters at their most base and most vulnerable. While it is intriguing to learn about the characters and watch the relationships between them develop, it doesn’t take us anywhere new. While I was interested in the characters, I never got enough information to really feel for them. There were too many false leads and basic questions left unanswered. I never understood why they had decided to live together.

The ending was also unsatisfactory, so much so that I felt like maybe I had missing something. Maybe I did, but it could also have been purposely left open-ended. There was an air of mystery about the play – the mysteriously locked doors, the characters that are spoken about but never appear, the discovery of a rabbit in the bread bin.

Christine Dwyer Hickey can write great dialogue and she has created three interesting characters. It’s a shame that they so little happened to them over the course of the play.

Interview with Hilary O’Shaughnessy

HilaryOShaughnessyLast week I spoke to Hilary O’Shaughnessy, the artist behind Make and Do, who are bringing The Journey to the End of the Night to Dublin. Hilary herself has played the street game in San Francisco, where it began and is played every year. She has also played other city-wide street games such as 2.8 Hours Later, a zombie street game, which she played in Bristol. Hilary says that street games are a great way to experience a city and get to know the people who live there. Games are all about connecting with other people. You are surrounded by people with the same goal as you and very quickly find yourself talking to strangers and getting to know people.

With Journey, these connections between strangers start before the game begins. The creators of the game (Ian Kizu-Blair, Sean Mahan and Sam Lavigne) have released it under a Creative Commons/Non-Commercial license so anyone can organise a game, but not for profit. This means the game is run entirely by volunteers – dedicated enthusiasts who get involved because they think it’ll be fun. Hilary is currently assembling the Dublin team.

She is also one of these enthusiasts but says that people sometimes have difficulty understanding what street games are. She compares it to trying to explain a bicycle to someone who has never seen a bicycle before. One of the reasons she is bringing Journey to Dublin is to introduce the city to street games. Her hope is that once people get what it is, they will begin to create and run their own street games. She feels that there is scope for a lot of people with different backgrounds to enjoy and create street games.

Hilary’s own background is in theatre. She was Joint Artistic Director of Playgroup, the theatre company that produced the award-winning Berlin Love Tour, and is currently Artist in Residence (with Make and Do) at Project Arts Centre. She recently spoke at the IndieCade Conference in New York about Outsider Games – games by people who have no formal training in designing games, the valuable things this lack of training can add to the creation of games and how it can increase the pool of potential players. Hilary also has an MA in Interactive Media from UL, which she did in part to learn about ways to add technology to games. She is interested in tech as a way to extend the experience of the game and add an extra layer, but says that’s important not to forget the people are.

Journey, which will be part of the Darklight Festival, will have a digital storytelling strand to the game, where people can share photos, tweets and vines. (I won’t be in Dublin for the game and I’m glad I’ll be able to watch it unfold online on the night.)

Hilary’s next goal is to bring a play festival to Dublin, to further stimulate the game making and playing community in the city. She says that it won’t be aimed at children because they don’t need help or encouragement to play – they do it everyday. It’s for the adults who have forgotten this vital skill. There are festivals already running in many European cities such as Ig Fest in Bristol and w00t in Copenhagen. Later this year, Hilary will be presenting her own game CHARGE! at A maze in Berlin. Hopefully Dublin will embrace street games with the same enthusiasm as these cities and we will see lots more games happening here.

Related post: The Journey to the End of the Night