The Chipping Norton Theatre and The Dukes present
Stones In His Pockets
Thursday 25 February 2016 - Saturday 12 March 2016
review by Alan Chard
Written 20 years ago by Marie Jones, Stones In His Pockets had a humble start when it was first performed as part of the West Belfast Festival in 1996 followed by a tour of unconventional venues which made little impact. However it went on to feature in the West End and on Broadway.
This production opens at The Dukes in Lancaster, then moves on tour where it can be seen at no less than 34 locations in various parts of the country finishing at the end of May. (tour locations opens in a new window)
The story, in brief, is about a small Irish town that is invaded by a Hollywood film crew who are making a movie and have hired most of the local town as extras. Two of them, Jake Quinn and Charlie Conlon are our guides to life in the local community as they act out their experience of being film extras for 'forty quid a day' - as they keep reminding us. There is sorrow and sadness when Sean Harkin, one of the locals kills himself. The play takes its name from a detail of the suicide that makes a deep impression on the characters. The film crew try to push ahead with filming because they need to keep within budget, trying to ignore the fact that the community is reeling from Sean's death. Finally they relent and allow the extras an hour and a half off the attend the funeral but demand 'no alcohol'. Having lived in Ireland I appreciate the cultural significance attached to funerals there, and the need to keep to the accepted ways of doing things. This is a much bigger thing than the stereotypical joke it seems at first.
This is a very demanding play for the actors because they portray 15 different characters and are on stage the whole time. For example Hollywood star Ms Giovanni who can't get her accent right and fancies getting to know the locals more intimately; Jock, her over zealous Scottish security man, the set manager and his assistant, plus many others. Stereotypes, facial expressions, mannerisms and other gestures and accents are used to switch quickly between characters. As an audience we need all the help we can get to know what's going on because the set is minimal, just a simple ring of artificial turf, a small platform and a couple of crates albeit carefully crafted. Costumes are authentic, even seen close-up. There is no time for costume changes except within the context of the story and few props so the actors have their work cut out. Fortunately Charlie de Bromhead (Jake) and Conan Sweeny (Charlie) were up to task as there were only a couple of cues that I missed. That might have been a lapse on my part because the action happens so quickly.
I came out of the theatre feeling that I had been very-well entertained, but had been made to think too.
The dialogue is down-to-earth, lots of 'lads talk' so discretion advisable for younger viewers.
Alan Chard, February 2016
The Dukes video trailer for Stones In His Pockets