DramaFeaturedReviewSouth East

Stones in His Pockets – John Peel Centre, Stowmarket

Reviewer: Michael Gray

Writer : Marie Jones

Director: Jake Smith

Two tried and trusted brands – Eastern Angles and Stones in his Pockets – should ensure a successful tour of the region this spring.

This is Jake Smith’s first show for the company since he became Artistic Director. It’s an engagingly fresh look at a piece that’s been around for a quarter of a century, with new music and sound by David Barton, and evocative design – artwork back-projected to set the scene – by Amy Watts. This production will visit village halls as well as studio theatres, so the staging is simple: outcrops of rock, a screen for the sepia skyscape, the sketches and the rushes, and a couple of costume rails for the locker-room in the community centre.

Stones has become a classic, at least in part because of the virtuoso performances it demands of its two actors. Cathal Ryan as Jake and Lorcan Strain as Charlie are well contrasted, and bring us in quick succession, a gallery of some fifteen memorable characters, switching voice and physique in an instant, literally turning from one to the next.

A quiet corner of County Kerry has been invaded by a Hollywood blockbuster, with its flaky star Caroline Giovanni [superbly created by Lorcan], Clem the phlegmatic director, the terrifying Jock from Security, John, the weary dialogue coach, and Aisling, “Quiet everyone ! Settle !” Third Assistant Director, and Simon her superior. Not to mention acast of thousands, including Old Mickey, who remembers his screen début in John Ford’s Quiet Man way back in ’52, and of course the two extras at the heart of this hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking, look at fame, fortune and the dream factory. The wannabe film-maker, “on the run” from Ballycastle, and the local lad recently returned from New York, his dreams shattered.

Every creation is fully developed, even the smallest [the RTE man brilliantly done]. Brother Gerard, the teacher, Mr Haskin, a struggling farmer and his troubled son Sean.

In this intimate production we, the audience, become the “supporting artistes”, cajoled, patronised and berated by the creatives. And – spoiler alert – we’re mourners at the wake, too. “It’s like being on set – they’re the same people !”

The packed two hours include many memorable scenes – the locker-room heart-to-heart chats, Jake’s ten minutes with Caroline, the turf-digging sequence, and the disconnect between real life and fantasy, grieving and rejoicing, the lads’ fixed grins in the wonderful dance sequence for the climax of The Quiet Valley.

Though there are darker themes – exploitation and the fragility of aspirations – and tragedy – the awful incident which gives the piece its title – “people don’t go to the cinema to be depressed, that’s what the theatre’s for”, and what we take away is the tour-de-force that brings all these characters to life, turn, turn, and Simon becomes Caroline, Fin becomes Brother Gerard as “the extras become the stars …”

Touring until 18th May 2024

Reviews Hub Score

a classic refreshed

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The Reviews Hub - South East

The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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