Stones In His Pockets - Theatre ☆☆☆☆☆5
Showing from - Thursday, February 25, 2016 through till Saturday, March 12, 2016
The Dukes Theatre - Lancaster
Sandra Mangan | Saturday, February 27, 2016
There are some incredible two-handed plays in the theatre canon – think Educating Rita, The Dresser and Waiting for Godot – to that list, I suggest you add Stones in His Pockets.
On reflection though, the phrase two-handed is a little misleading, because there are 15 characters in Marie Jones’ script. A laugh-out-loud, deeply moving and thoroughly enjoyable revival of a fine playWhich is what makes the performances of Charlie de Bromhead and Conan Sweeny all the more remarkable… as they play every one of them.
This year is the 20th anniversary of a work which first saw light of day at West Belfast Festival, performed by Dubblejoint Theatre. From such humble beginnings, it went on to win acclaim in both the West End and on Broadway.
This joint production by The Theatre Chipping Norton and The Dukes Lancaster (their first such collaboration), was just made to be seen at close quarters – and as we were on the front row of the horseshoe-shaped seating, we really couldn’t have been any closer!
It was all the better to watch two skilful actors at the top of their game, using nothing but body language, stance and vocal dexterity to transform themselves into a huge range of characters. Shaven-headed Sweeny was an utterly believable Hollywood diva, while young, ruggedly handsome de Bromhead somehow became the bent, ageing, ‘only surviving extra from The Quiet Man’, not using sleight of hand but by shifting his centre of gravity and altering the tone of voice.
On the surface, Stones in His Pockets is about opposing cultures. A glitzy film crew arrives in a small rural Irish town and turns the place upside down. The locals all want to get in on the act and earn £40 a day as an extra, while the incomers just want to get the damn thing in the can as quickly as possible. Cue a great deal of hilarity as the Hollywood vision of Irishness is revealed to be as fake as the lead actress’s appalling Irish accent.
But there’s an underlying bleakness that is given full rein when a young village lad commits suicide by walking into a deep lake, his pockets full of stones. It’s an apt metaphor for a country still weighed down by past injustices – and ironically, the movie being filmed is offering a sugar-coated version of that turbulent history.
The set is pared down, with minimal props being used in imaginative ways – all the better for the actors to be the main attraction, and believe me, these guys are well up for the challenge. Director John Terry has done a grand job here, and a special mention must be given to Movement Director Bronya Deutsch.
This is a laugh-out-loud, deeply moving and thoroughly enjoyable revival of a fine play. It goes out on national tour during March and April and I urge you to catch it if you can – for more details, visit www.stonesinhispockets.org
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