Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gúna Nua and Ramblinman, 'PONDLING': Build Me Up Buttercup

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 9-13

My review of PONDLING by Genevieve Hulme-Beaman coming up just as soon as a brunette bolt of lightning shatters my hopes and dreams ...

Is it ever "just" a schoolgirl crush? Sparkplugged student Madeline, in her pursuit of beauty and poise in time for the start of the new school year, may convince us that there's more love to the matter than we give it credit for.

Waiting faithfully for Johnno Boyle O'Connor to return her affections, spirited Madeline spends her last summer days on her grandfather's farm, spreading elegance to the fences by covering them with daisy chains, and enlisting chickens as friends by slipping them porridge. For all it's fantastical departures (there's a French speaking swan at one point), there are hints to a reality of youthful loneliness as well as female objectification, as the young woman goes on a quest to become the apprentice of a glossy fitness instructor.

Hulme-Beaman hums around the stage in a lemony skirt and a hazel jumper, wonder-eyed and expertly timed. There is a wickedness to her character that makes her completely unpredictable, and this incites giddiness in the audience.

But between the laughs one wishes that she would land softer on some deliveries so as to let us side with her emotionally. A description of a romantic drive with a beau through France is one of the poignant reminders that some of these passages can be breathtaking.

This burst of new writing is thick with rich textures and vibrant descriptions. It's final lesson of sweet humility, intelligently maneuvered, suggests that the talent behind this honeyed play about childhood crushes is far from naive.

What did everybody else think?

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