Stones in His Pockets

Marie Jones
Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Rose Theatre, Kingston, in association with the McCarter Theatre Centre
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
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The creative team on this production totals twenty-three, actors two. Two brave and hardworking men who take on the multiple characters present a story which covers a clash of cultures, misunderstandings and feelings of resentment or, in some cases, total lack of any feeling at all.

A film company has descended on a small village in Ireland intent on shooting a movie which they think is typically Irish. Well, they’re in trouble from the start if they think their idea of Irishness matches the reality.

The scene is set in the country with well-worn grass hillocks, a small drystone wall and a large trunk incongruously in the centre doing duty as a receptacle for clothes, but also representing the Hollywood company who are out of place here. They are using members of the local community as extras who are quite happy with their $40 a day until resentment sets in, not only when they hear the salaries of the stars, but also as they feel downtrodden and degraded, especially when having to take last place at the canteen waggon.

Owen Sharpe and Kevin Trainor do sterling work as the locals Jake and Charlie, switching from their original personas to most of the locals, as well as the ‘filum’ company from director to female star, and they switch so well and so swiftly yet somehow it just doesn’t gel. I remember laughing heartily when I first saw this show a few years ago, yet here it was hard to raise a smile. Difficult to put a finger on what exactly what I thought was wrong. Maybe it was the accents, perhaps the speed of speech, or could it be not enough emphasis on key words or actions.

The two work their socks off in what must be a totally exhausting performance and there certainly are highlights. Sharpe’s amazingly flexible body copes with the tiptoeing effeminate director constantly urging the assembled company to “settle, settle”, to the crouching walk of the old timer whose claim to fame was that he had been in The Quiet Man, a previous film shot in the same location. Trainor as a simpering, flirty, hair-flicking Caroline Giovanni manages a few yoga poses and the two also indulge (if that’s the right word) in a little Irish dancing.

Act two is a big improvement on the laughter front, beginning with the two locals as boys competing in ‘ducks and drakes’—skimming stones across the water to see how many bounces they can manage. Here they discuss their hopes and dreams and, as they grow up, the difficulties of achieving what they desire. A little introspection concerns the death of a local drug addict, Shaun, a young man who, ignored by locals and humiliated by Caroline, put stones in his pockets and walked out to sea. He had nowhere else to go.

Jake and Charlie then have the idea of establishing their own film company beginning with Shaun’s Story and switching roles so the extras become the stars and the Hollywood actors become the extras. Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

Reviewer: Sheila Connor