Stones In His Pockets, theatre review, GOH, April 16, 2019
By Conor O’Neill
Winner of two Olivier Awards back on 2001, Marie Jones’ Stones In His Pockets returns to Belfast, the town were it originally played in 1996.
Director, Lindsay Porter, keeps with the original minimal setting: a large black box sitting centre stage, to the audience’s left two small stools and the rear of the stage covered in grassy, mossy turf a wall half stands, half tumbles completing the fairy-tale.
image most Ameicans have in their heads of the Emerald isle. This is exactly what Hollywood director Nick wants to compliment his movie.
Set in an unnamed Kerry town, the glitz and glamour of LA is at first seen as a welcome intrusion. But Hollywood is far from the only blow-in to the sleepy village. Ballycastle man, owner of a small video shop has fled his native town after the almighty on Xtra-vision has taken all his ‘loyal’ costumers declaring ‘I’m on the run from myself’. But Charlie, excellently played by Kevin Trainor, is ever the optimist. With a tent on his back he’s been travelling Ireland taking him were the wind blows. At 40 quid a day and all you can eat, he seems to have found his promised land. Just don’t give him gin.
Not so well humoured is Jake, played with energy and vim by Owen Sharpe.
Recently returned from a spate in New York, where Charlie sees a silver lining, Jake can only see the cloud. But like most of the town he welcomes Hollywood’s money, begrudgingly. The two actors play multiple roles, moving accents from Ireland’s North East coast to the Kerry’s lush, lyrical tones. Then there’s the LA-esque boom of Nick the director (Trainor), the piercing squeal of his daughter Aishling (Sharpe) and Hollywood A-lister Caroline; a role Trainor appears to thrive in more than he would readily admit.
But as filming continues the pair, and indeed the town itself, soon becomes somewhat disillusioned by Hollywood’s interference and its lowly look on the extras so necessary to the film’s success.
Caroline Giovanni – three times Irish removed on her mother’s side – has as director Nick regrets has ‘a tendency of going native’. And her target, only the pessimist that is our fidgeting and melancholy Jake. Ulterior motive is at hand though; she only wants Jake as he’s pure lock-stock and total local. For her six million fee, for the life of her she cannot manage the Irish accent.
All those years renting and watching films has not, however, been wasted on Charlie. Along with eternal optimism, and his tent, he carries with him a script for a film. If only he could get it to the right hands.
Tragedy hits the town. Sean (Sharpe), has spent half his life hoping for greater things, the other, wiped out on drugs, kills himself. The day of the filming just happens to be Sean’s funeral. The town is up in arms as they’re given two hours to put the body to the grave before the light runs out. And as Nick states, ‘No drinking’. Micky (Sharpe), the last surviving extra from The Quiet Man stages a rebellion. Jake reads Charlie’s script, describing it as a ‘pile of shite’ and the two rewrite and plan are made.
We have RTE reporters, producers wanting Nick’s balls on a sliver plate, tension between locals and the silver-screen elite, grief, the eternal battle of the optimism versus pessimism, the clout of Hollywood and its view of Ireland and tradition against modernity.
And all that is changed set-wise throughout the 90 minutes was the background hue. Green being the main, then, pink, purple, black and sky blues.
My friend loved the first act but thought the second was rushed and the ending a bit unfulfilled. In my mind this was exactly what Jones’ planned. No happy Hollywood ending.
To find out for yourself, grab a ticket. Opening night was sold out. I’m told tickets for the rest of the run are going well, but some are still available.
For yours visit http://www.goh.co.uk or call the box office on 02890 241919
Stones In His Pockets runs up to and including Saturday, April 20th with matinees on Thursday at 2pm and Saturday at 230.