Writer: Marie Jones
Director: Ian McElhinney
Reviewer: James Garrington
When a touch of glamour lands in a quiet village, the impact on the local community can be enormous. Stones in his Pockets tells such a story. The central premise is fairly simple, as a Hollywood film crew descend on a remote, sleepy village in Ireland, and engage many of the local people as extras, setting in motion a chain of events that leads to tragedy. All is not doom and gloom, however. This two-hander is a very funny, and at the same time very poignant, lament for dreams that are shattered against the rocks just as it seems that they might float, and the impact that a careless word or thoughtless deed can have. The play is set in County Kerry, as we are reminded throughout, but as writer Marie Jones herself says, “This is not just an Irish story.”
The cast of two, Stephen Jones and Conor Delaney, command the stage as they between them play 15 different rôles, and although many of the rôles are stereotyped to the point of being caricatures, they are all quite believable. Here we have the whole world of film-making from Jake and Charlie, who are extras along with Mickey “the last surviving extra of The Quiet Man” to film director Clem and Hollywood leading lady Caroline Giovanni. Costumes are minimal and purely representative, and the different characters are instead depicted by their own mannerisms; and the pair switch flawlessly from one to another with a turn. This is something which takes a moment or two to get used to as the play starts, but which allows the piece to flow effortlessly and demonstrates the skill of the cast and the quality of the writing and direction by Ian McElhinney, who directed the original production and was nominated for a Tony award for the Broadway version. Jones and Delaney deliver faultless performances with many memorable scenes; over-acting by the extras, Charlie trying to get a second helping of dessert to supplement the £50 a day they are being paid, and most especially Jones as a Hollywood femme fatale flirting with Delaney’s Jake as she serves him coffee in her trailer, and his reaction when it turns out that she has not invited him there for the reason he hoped, and everyone else suspects.
The set designed by Jack Kirwan is minimal, comprising mainly a backdrop of a film strip with a row of shoes, and a large box on castors which is moved around to stage to be at one point a car, at others a table or a bar, and out of which appears a series of different costume pieces. Nothing here, then, to detract from the performances, and nothing to slow down the action. Atmospheric lighting by Eamon Fox helps us to move from location to location, changing as the cast change from character to character.
Despite the tragedy and undercurrent of exploitation that run through the piece, we are left with a feeling of hope that for some people at least, their experiences on film have awakened a sense of determination and self-belief. Stones in his Pockets is a joy throughout, and is on tour until 22nd November; whatever you do, don’t miss it.
Reviewed on 4th October. On tour until 22nd November.