Stones in his Pockets – Smock Alley Theatre – Review by P. McGovern
Until – 10 Jun | 7:30pm
Celebrating its 21st birthday this year, Marie Jones’s Stones in his Pockets has much to celebrate. Peopled with an array of broad caricatures, male and female; Irish, British and American, it is a highly theatrical rollercoaster of an evening. With a cast of just two actors, both need to be at the top of their game and both Charlie de Bromhead (Jake) and Conan Sweeny (Charlie) deliver flawless performances. The word versatile doesn’t do justice to their dazzling physical and vocal skills, as they conjure up the making of a film on location in rural Kerry.
Think the making of Ryan’s Daughter in Dingle or The Quiet Man in Mayo (which is nodded to repeatedly) and the reported impact on the local community of the world of perceived glamour, of imported excitement. Or Far And Away, with its landlord and peasants and the dreadful accents. Or maybe think Our Town or Under Milk Wood, their range and richness of characters, with hopes and aspirations, their secrets and insecurities. evoking a whole community. Underlying all the fun is a sense of a community breaking apart.
Charlie hopes to break out of his mundane existence by becoming a movie scriptwriter. Eventually he admits that all along he knew it was “only shite”, but it has taken a long time for him to face the reality that the moviemakers see him and his community as hired hands, expendable menials. Jake has returned from a less-than-fulfilling stint in New York. Still in love with the romanticised version of America that he harbours, he wonders if the film world may offer him what so many long for: fulfilment and excitement, an escape from frustration and predictability of their restricted existence. When a celebrity American film actress pretends to seduce Jake, praising his “lovely eyes and the soul of a poet”, her time with him is merely a way of acquiring ‘authenticity’ of accent on set. The entire attitude of big movie corporations towards small communities is made entertainingly but pointedly by conflict about arrangements for a funeral that is important to local people– the rearranging of shooting schedule, flowers etc.
There’s the coarse cockney set manager, his clip-boarded assistant complete with AA Roadwatch accent. Add in a cast of local yokel film extras wanting to escape from their humdrum lives, hotel staff and bouncers, not to mention a sub-Riverdance sequence and yes, there is great scope for comedy which is exploited to the full in John Terry’s sharp direction.
If there is a reservation about the writing or direction it concerns the crucial, darker element of the plot, the stones in the pockets of misfit, outsider, isolated, hopeless Sean, why they were there and what happened to him. The significance of the sub-plot which gives the play and the film being shot their title is somehow squeezed into the margins, lost amid the laughs as we hurtle along from gag to gag.
The show continues at Smock Alley runs for two hours, including interval, from 7. 30 nightly until Saturday June 10. Matinee performances on Saturdays at 2. 30.
Charlie de Bromhead – Jake
Conan Sweeny – Charlie
WRITTEN BY: Marie Jones
DIRECTED BY: John Terry
LIGHTING DESIGN BY: Alexandra Stafford
SET and COSTUME DESIGN BY: Samantha Dowson
SOUND DESIGN BY: Eamonn O’Dwyer