What lies beneath

Genevieve Hulme-Beaman delivers a stand-out performance as a terrifying lady-in-waiting

 

Pondling

Boys’ School, Smock Alley

****

Madeline is a lady, impeccable in presentation, delighting in all things beautiful, with a taste for the finer things in life. She refuses to compromise when it comes to matters of comportment, no matter what work needs to be done on the farm (crushing cans, decorating fences, beheading chickens), and perhaps the one thing that will complete her life will be her inevitable marriage to Johnno Boyle O’Connor, with “his strong jaw, his soft lips, his thick eyebrow”.

She might be teetering on teenage-hood, but Madeline has her life securely mapped out with psychotic precision. On the surface, all is serene, but as Pondling progresses, and Madeline tears about her home town on her trusty My Little Pony bike, the wheels start to come off to brilliant effect.

This is less a glittering gem of a show and more a glinting shard, with a heart of comedic darkness that perhaps owes a debt to Patrick McCabe. Genevieve Hulme-Beaman, who also wrote Pondling, plays her central character with a rictus smile, stretched tight across the nuclear payload of her jealousy and bubbling neuroses. When the explosion inevitably happens, it’s terrific and terrifying. Gentle souls may well want to take cover; stars have collapsed with less of a fuss.

Ends Sep 13