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Pondling Interview by Emily Elphinstone.
Genevieve Hulme-Beaman is an Actor, Playwright, and (if her writing is anything to go by) a bit of a creep. Since graduating from the Gaiety School of Acting in 2010, Genevieve has performed in the international tour of ‘Little Gem’, the hugely successful production of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ in The Gate, and her own show ‘Pondling’ for which she won Best Actress in the Dublin Fringe, and is now nominated for the Stewart Parker Award. I caught up with Genevieve to discuss acting, writing, and ‘Madeline Humbel Buttercup’:
Emily: How would you describe the show?
Genevieve: It’s a story about a little girl, who lives on a farm; and her dreams, and strange little fantasies aren’t of the world that she’s from … They’re a little more over the top, and a little more romantic than her setting allows.
E: And where did the inspiration for this come from?
G: Well I just had an image in my head of this little girl in an Edith Piaf pose … sort of dramatic, and teary eyed; and I thought: ‘What could she have done?!’ I felt like she was confessing to something; so it’s like the play is what happened before that image.
E: When you did the first twenty minute show of Pondling (in Collaborations 2013), did you have an inkling that you wanted to develop it?
G: Yeah, before that I’d only written short pieces in the Gaiety School, and for Collaborations; but this is the first time that I knew from the beginning that it was a whole play. By the time I performed it in Collaborations; I actually had to get rid of some of those ideas to make it into a twenty minute piece. It was fun afterwards, putting those bits back in and developing those ideas; but it was also really, really hard. It’s fun writing the bits that just come to you, like, maybe she loves crushing cans, or maybe she follows this glamorous lady home; but then trying to put it all together is difficult … But once the character is fully there, it answers its own questions for you: Sometimes you cut things because you know the character better by then.
E: You started developing the show by yourself … how was it finding a director etc?
G: Well that really just happened naturally, because Paul (Meade) has always helped me with my writing since we started working together during the Gaiety: Whenever I’d have a little idea I would go to him and we’d have a little chat about it. He seems to come at things with the same humour as I do, so his first instinct about ‘Pondling’ was that it was funny, whereas when I was describing it to other people they thought it was horrific! So that was good … after that I didn’t feel too self conscious about it, and it gave the writing a bit more freedom.
E: Like ‘At least one other person gets it’?
G: Yeah exactly!
E: And how was the experience of turning into a radio play?
G: Firstly it was a bit scary, but then I realised I (needed to) see the radio production as a completely new thing: Then it just opened up, and I had loads of really fun ideas. We had this idea that she actually has a tape recorder, which she whispers into. Rather than telling the audience in the theatre; she records her stories to be heard in the future … by people in RTE! They gave me a tape recorder so I could do the clunk sound of the play/stop/rewind, and then I’d whisper into it. We got lots of little ideas so some of them make it in, some of them don’t.
E: Did you change much of the actual writing or more just how it was performed?
G: Well there was A LOT of cutting – whole chunks that just weren’t in the radio play; which I kind of like because then the radio play is a thing of its own.
E: Now you’ve done the full Fringe production, and seen its huge success, is it less scary this time around, or is there just more expectation?
G: Oh it’s way more scary! Partly because I’m trying to remember what I did in the Fringe; and because during the Fringe nobody had any expectation for it apart from me. So this is actually really scary, because if it goes wrong now it’s like taking everything back! But anyway, you have to give it a chance.
E: As well as Acting and Writing you’ve also worked as a Director. Would you like to do more of this?
G: Oh I definitely would. Right now I’m focusing on Writing and Acting, but I’d like to do more directing in the future. It feels like Acting and Writing sort of have less responsibility: With Writing you get to do it in your own time, and it’s your own little world and you just make shit up in your head; and with Acting all you have to do is turn up, work hard, do what you’re told, and make shit up! But with directing there’s actually a huge amount of responsibility. Directing ‘True West’ there was pressure taken off me, because Ramblinman were producing it, and I just worked with the Actors really; but when I worked on ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ in The Gate as the AD (Assistant Director), I saw how Ethan (McSweeny) worked: How if you want to be a director at the top of your game, you have to juggle all the balls in the air at once, act calm, and pretend it’s fine even when everything is going mental … I don’t know if I’m quite ready for that.
E: This is the first time you’ve performed a one-woman show: What is your experience of it so far?
G: It’s very scary, but it’s also really exciting. It’s daunting because, you know, sometimes you might be doing a play and especially if it’s a really long run you’ll have a night when you think ‘that wasn’t my best’. But if that happens here, and your energy is a bit lower than it should be; then the only person that can pick it up is you, so you just have to keep on … you always feel you can undo all your hard work by just having a bad night, then you have a whole audience of people going ‘I don’t think that show was great’; It’s all down to you. So that’s the negative. But then the positive is that you get a really strong connection to the audience. If you’re having a good night and they’re really responding, it’s like magic and it’s like you were there with that audience at that time, and it’ll never happen quite like that again. And if you fluff a line, you’re the one that picks yourself up as well; and you’re not going to throw yourself any curve balls, hopefully! So there’s lots of really good things about it. Writing it and being in it gives you a confidence in all your work, and you get a really good buzz from that.
E: So where is the tour going this time?
G: Smock Alley Theatre, the Mick Lally Theatre in Galway, and the Axis; then we’re going to Edinburgh … for the full whack (of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe). I hear it’s terrifying! But Matt (Smyth, the producer) has been over loads, and the Collapsing Horse gang will be there as well doing ‘Human Child’ and ‘Bears in Space’ so I won’t be on my own, you know? I’ll have pals which will be nice.
‘Pondling’ is running in Smock Alley Theatre from March 31st – April 5th
Axis Theatre 24th – 25th April.
You can listen to the Radio Play of ‘Pondling’ on RTE.ie