Touring – reviewed at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
There’s plenty of life and bundles of irony in the latest production of Marie Jones’ magnificent two-hander, Stones In His Pockets, now on a major UK tour.
Taking place on the set of a Hollywood movie, filming on location in rural South West Ireland, the 15 character script is a masterpiece of light-hearted banter, blarney, revelations, resolutions and surprisingly heart-breaking twists. A gift, in short, for two talented actors.
There is so much brilliant material here to work with on Peter McKintosh’s deceptively plain set, of a big solid flight-case on open grassland under a dappled blue sky.
There are the two extras, for starters. Jake (Owen Sharpe) just returned from a couple of years in the States where he had gone to make his fortune and Charlie (Kevin Trainor), whose video rental business in Northern Ireland has just gone bust and is now touring the country in his tent.
The local and the incomer, then – although they are equally “locals” to the Hollywood film crew. Jake with a sharp wit and a huge chip on his shoulder after failing to achieve the vision he was sold in the movies. And always-happy Charlie who walks away when the talk gets serious and lost everything when the technology of the movies he sold moved on.
Around them, there’s the sexy American star of the film failing to get her local accent right, the ineffectual second unit director (he surely wears sandy coloured cords) failing to get the local colour right and his busy, supposedly vapid assistant director, failing to rise to the level she deserves.
Wheeling between them, and a good half dozen local extras and village characters, Sharpe and Trainor ensure that the course of the play is clear, despite a few accent failures and Trainor’s over-reliance on the broadest of character strokes when precise detail would work much better.
They at least ensure that the play’s big picture is clear, of a Hollywood machine which gobbles up a culture, turns it into a version of itself and then sells it back to the original culture as the real deal.
Less obvious are the subtleties of character which can make this a truly explosive play. From Jake’s drug-taking young cousin, Sean, right up to Hollywood star Caroline, there is much more humanity to be found than director Lindsay Posner gets her actors to find.
It is partly a technical issue – there is not enough distinction between the characters so you are focussing on who is talking instead of what they are saying. But if the characters were better drawn, more precise, then the comedy would flow more naturally from them. And there is plenty there to find.
Still, there are laugh-out-loud moments and scenes of great humanity and tenderness as well. Jake’s visit to the Father who taught Sean, and Sean’s subsequent reading of his essay about cows is beautifully done – a quiet moment that is at the heart of the whole play.
And the production’s staging is spot on. Howard Harrison’s lighting is excellently used for both atmosphere and to delineate the scenes when filming is taking place, and Paul Groothuis’ sound design (with composer Corin Buckeridge) is equally effective in creating place.
But most of all, it is a great script by Marie Jones. One which disguises deep reflections on the true nature of cultural imperialism with the fluff of whimsy – and delivers the whole in a great ball of comedy.
Running time: One hour 45 minutes (including one interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000
Tuesday 2 – Saturday 6 April 2019
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinees Wed & Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.
The script is available from Amazon. Click image for details:
Stones In His Pockets on tour 2019:
Tue 2 – Sat 6 April 2019
0131 529 6000
Mon 8 – Sat 13 April 2019
Mon 15 – Sat 20 April 2019
Grand Opera House
Mon 22 – Sat 27 April 2019
Tue 7 – Sat 11 May 2019
Mon 13 – Sat 18 May 2019
Devonshire Park Theatre
01323 412 000
Mon 27 May – Sat 1 June 2019
Mon 10 – Sat 15 June 2019
029 2087 8889
Mon 24 – Sat 29 June
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
01483 44 00 00
Mon 8 – Sat 13 July
Mon 15 – Sat 20 July
Mon 22 – Sat 27 July
0115 989 5555
Tue 29 July – Sat 3 Aug
0844 871 7650
Kevin Trainor and Owen Sharpe. Pic: Nobby Clark